How long have you been at the hospital, Karen?
I grew up in El Paso, Texas, and I’ve been here since 2002. Prior to coming here I was at the Boston Medical Center, and the Yale New Haven Hospital.
Looking at your credentials, It looks like you’re wearing a lot of hats. Can you talk about your work as medical director for EMS?
Being hospital medical director means that I’m in charge of the quality of our program. I make sure that the hospital is following statewide protocols; I make sure that all EMS providers are up-to-date with state regulations. We also have an extensive quality-assurance program, where we review cases of interest.
How about your work as medical director of the Substance Use Disorder Program?
Much of my work is done with a group of Island organizations, including the police departments, called the M.V. Substance Use Disorder Coalition. I’m a bit of a zealot when it comes to advancing awareness of opioid abuse and advocating for its proactive treatment. I arrange to have speakers talk to the coalition and our medical staff in an attempt to destigmatize substance abuse. Opioid disorder is a medical problem similar to diabetes or high blood pressure, and fortunately we now have medications that can really help.
What part of your work has been most fulfilling?
It took us two years to get the police departments to carry Narcan, because sometimes the police get to the scene first, before the EMTs, and naloxone [Narcan] can save lives. That’s been a huge initiative for us at the hospital, and I was proud of that.