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November 13, 2008



Legendary David Smith, quite the rabble-rouser when he started San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury free clinic for drug addicts in 1967, was in town to speak at the National Institute of Drug Abuse the other day. We don’t usually feature out-of-town docs, but for this revolutionary, we’ll make an exception. Especially since he did us the honor of coming to our DuPont Circle office.   


Before each interview we play the home version of What’s My Line, and have all the guests sign in. After a few guesses (and a consult with Kitty Carlisle), we determined David is currently medical director at Center Point, a 6-month therapeutic community for addicts in the criminal justice system. On the right is Chase Communications’ Yolanda Woodlee (David’s PR whiz). He was in town to address drug court judges. Currently 60% of addiction referrals come from drug courts and David would like to amp that up and see more “medicalization, not criminalization of addiction. That’s not to say 60% isn’t progress. When he first started, David tells us docs were arrested for treating addicts on an out-patient basis. To get around this, he invented the field of “Addiction Medicine” just so it would look more presentable to the AMA. It worked, and in 1987 it classified all drug addiction as one disease.


Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.” You’ve heard that phrase from the campaign trail, but it was David who said it first. He says it’s a sign of progress that the phrase, once an anthem of the counter-culture (“I was affectionately called a Communist”), has now be co-opted by the AARP, an organization who he’s pretty sure harbor no secret Marxist agenda. (Though the word socialism did seem to gain a new life a few weeks ago on the campaign trail.) If you missed David this trip, he’ll be back in December for the American Society of Addiction Medicine conference. Until then, he tells us his 3 grandkids occupy most of his time.


The movement to integrate healthcare and technology also comes with pancakes. On Sunday, International healthcare blogger Jen McCabe Gorman invited DC tech and healthcare leaders to P Street’s Commissary restaurant for a free-wheeling conversation on the benefits and shortcomings of what you might call “Health 2.0.” Above, Infamia’s Ernesto Gluecksmann, Ozmosis’ Joel Selzer, and ASTECH consultant Anita Samarth joined Jen to swap ideas about everything from why docs have been so slow to transition to electronic medical records (traditional adoption rates for any healthcare change is 16 years), to how to earn patients’ trust when it comes to divulging information. We even chimed in with a few ideas of our own (though mostly about the pancakes). Jen hopes to make the brain trust a regular event and says anybody looking to be part of the solution is welcome. To benefit from her knowledge, or to contact her, check out her Twitter feed.

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