PHN Newsletter, September 2011


September  2011  

Professionals Health Network News 

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Quick quotes & editor's notes...

Deb Gross Resized 

Dear Dr. Gross,


I am new to recovery and I recently heard some people talking about the issue of anonymity. They said you can talk about being in recovery but never about AA. Is that right? I work with the media and want to be open about my recovery. I think it helps me and I hope it helps somebody else  by decreasing stigma.



A Media Professional



Dear AMP,


Thanks for the great question! Confidentiality and anonymity are very important in the treatment of any psychiatric disorder, so much so that even our privacy laws are more protective of this area.  In addition, the word "Anonymous" at the end of pretty much every 12 step group name  reminds us that what happens in the meeting stays in the meeting.  


However, the point you bring up about the media is intriguing. I wasn't too clear about it myself so I asked Dr. Polles to clarify it for us.  Here is what she said (quotes are from AA "Big Book"):


"Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our fellowship - ever reminding us to place principles before personalities."  We are instructed to remain anonymous "at the level of press, radio, or television." This would extend to more current means of mass communication, e.g. internet venues. Anyone may identify him/herself as a person with a drinking/addiction problem using his/her entire name but may not indicate membership in AA. There are a number of reasons but most prominent for the organization is that if that person falls off the wagon, then onlookers may conclude that AA doesn't work, which might keep people from using it as a recovery resource. Another reason is that it can inflate egos to be identified as an AA guru or leader and thus detract from the fact that the group, not the individual, is where  the strength resides.


  Thanks for the clarification, Dr. Polles!  So there you have it, AMP.  You can talk about your recovery and you can talk about AA and 12 Step concepts in general--but not that you (or anyone else, of course) are a member.  Hope that helps and best wishes in your recovery!


Interesting:  DENTISTS write the 3rd highest number of prescriptions for opioids in the US but are often unaware of important issues and precautions in using these medicines.The authors of a new Brown University study hope to change that.  Read it in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.



I encourage you to read the Recovery in Action column this month.  Many women are very frightened in meetings, as are most new people.  As Proust said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." We can learn much from listening to beginners in any area of life.



DO ASK, DO TELL...  As editor of PHN News, I want to know how we can help you. We at PHN have combined experience in professionals' health and addiction medicine of something like 130 years! Email questions or comments to me at and watch for feedback in a coming edition.


Have a success story, an insight or a challenge you are burning to share?  We welcome you aspiring writers (you know who you are...) out there to submit articles about issues relevant to recovering professionals and those who help and support them.


Deborah V. Gross, MD

Editor-in-Chief, PHN News

Diplomate, ASAM

APA Fellow

 Upcoming stuff...




To find a recovery month event near you, click here


PHN is pleased to announce that the 4th Annual Mississippi Addictions Conference will open with the first annual Gary D. Carr, MD Keynote Address. The speaker list will be announced in upcoming newsletters.  The conference will be held at the Hilton in Jackson, MS, February 9-11, 2012. Please SAVE THE DATE and join us! PHN voted to name the keynote address after Dr. Carr in appreciation for his deep dedication to helping people with addictive disorders. 

Dr. Carr remains with us in his role as PHN's Medical Director Emeritus. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with him.


Debra Lee Carr, MA, JD, LPC,

will conduct a workshop called "Ethics and Legal Issues in Mental Health" for Pine Belt Mental Health Care Resources in Hattiesburg, MS, September 16, 2011.


NEW ON KINDLE AND IN PAPERBACK!  If you've ever hefted that authoritative ASAM resource known as Principles of Addiction Medicine, 4th edition, you know it's not exactly portable.  Key points have been distilled into this super-useful book. (I just downloaded it to my iPad in under a minute!) Click here for more info. 


ASAM's "State of the Art in Addiction Medicine" conference will be held in October 27-29 in Washington, DC.  Go here for more information. 

Corner 12...



For most people entering recovery, there are family and friends, a home and perhaps even a job to return to for support. Some, however, have lost everything to addiction. For them, there is Branch of Hope, a halfway house located in Water Valley , MS . With the support and effort of Joe Walker, Branch of Hope was founded to supply housing, meals and a conducive environment for recovering people who are integrating back into society. Founded as a 501(c)(3) corporation,  Branch of Hope is free of political influence and relies on private donations. Branch of Hope provides that "second chance."  It can presently serve 18 men but a recent purchase brings plans for a facility to house 8 women. For more information and to contribute to Branch of Hope, go to


PHN thanks Dr. Joe Walker for all he does for those in need.

A word from our Medical Director... 


The Planning Committee for the 4th Annual Mississippi Addictions Conference met last week and really moved things forward  towards the February event. The theme is "Trends, Treatment and Transformations: Addiction in 2012." More specific information will follow in upcoming newsletters.

Alexis Pollles, MD


I was so struck by the title that I decided to use it as a guide for taking inventory of my own goals for the coming year.  The focus will be to solidify our organizational identity as Professionals Health Network (PHN) and in so doing enhance and make ever more evident our dedication to the dental professionals, veterinary professionals, Methodist clergy and other licensed professionals we serve.


In response to feedback and the needs of our participants, we plan to create satellite locations for professional support groups spearheaded by local members of the organization. Our contractually obligated participants and those who want to help and support them will then have another venue for participation, productivity and benefit.


Additionally, we plan to make greater use of available technology to allow PHN's Board and Committee members to communicate more regularly and thus increase our efficiency. For example, one idea we are considering is to conduct monthly Committee meetings via Skype or similar services to focus on routine clinical and monitoring issues. Our quarterly meetings can then be used to review recommendations from the Committee's satellite locations and to discuss complex cases when needed.


We are a program of integrity and good outcomes and we hope to use the new technologies to produce workable data bases that allow us to dedicate more energy towards maturing as a program. As we move through these trends and transformations, our unwavering goal remains the same: To improve the health and lives of our participants and their patients, congregations, clients and families.

As we move forward, your ideas and feedback and are important and always welcome, so please let me hear from you.


Best to all of you,



PS...You can contact me using my  cell line (601-520-4814) any time or you can reach me through the PHN office at  601-261-9899.   We are here for you.


Alexis Polles, MD

Medical Director, PHN



Recovery in action...  



"AA has a chip system to denote periods of sobriety. The first chip is a 24-hour chip or desire chip...."


She rose from a sofa near the chairperson's table--a newcomer. Very thin and pale, wearing a flat expression and clean but worn attire, she received her chip and obligatory AA hug. Barely acknowledging the applause, she glanced down at her chip and disappeared once more into the cushions of the couch. I wondered if she would be back after tonight. She was here for a reason, seeking relief from pain or consequences brought on by drugs and/or alcohol. Would she find enough today to keep her on a path to recovery?

The chairperson launched a discussion on spirituality and its role in recovery.  Immediately the oldtimer next to me began fidgeting as he usually does when he disagrees with the proceedings. After a few persons had shared, he finally spoke up. "I notice we have a newcomer," he said. "Maybe we could direct our comments toward this newcomer." My thoughts drifted back to my first few days of sobriety and the day I picked up my first chip. What was I thinking and feeling at the time? Concepts of spirituality and a Higher Power were foreign and meaningless to me then. Fear and apprehension were overriding, like being adrift at sea with no land in sight as a point of reference. I remember having a multitude of thoughts, but my mind constantly returned to "how can I live a life without drinking?" The locked doors of a detox facility made resigning myself to "not drinking" easier, but making it through 72 hours without alcohol did little to improve my outlook for a sober life. For tonight's newcomer, however, the "drinking and using" life waited right outside the door, ready to embrace her at her most vulnerable.

What did this newcomer need to make it through the day without drinking? In my early meetings, I could relate very little to what was being said, but one simple statement from an oldtimer after a meeting has endured to this time. "The one sure thing you need to know," he said, "is that during an AA meeting you will be in a place where you will not drink." This obvious truism, this promise of temporary relief from the compulsion, frequently was the primary reason I went to meetings in my newcomer days. It was only when the compulsion began to fade that I could grasp the principles of the program. The AA Preamble calls for the sharing of experience, strength and hope. Hope may be all a newcomer can absorb. Perhaps that is enough. It was heartening to see several women in the program approach the newcomer after the meeting to offer encouragement and find a way to get her to return. Everyone has a chance.

As I walked out, I realized that I needed to again reset my approach to newcomers. Extending a helping hand and understanding their needs requires looking at the world through their eyes, a perspective similar to mine when I first began. Recovery has to occur in small steps, measured in minutes and hours and days which hopefully add up to a lifetime.  Did this newcomer return?  Well, there is always another meeting, after all.

Glenn L

Participants' corner...

Meet the Committee!


Meeting with the PHN Committee as a participant can be a daunting experience.  Truly, however, the members of the Committee have two primary goals:

1. To guide you in your journey through sobriety and into recovery, and, 2. To protect you from the pitfalls that can occur when you get back to the practice of your profession

Directly or indirectly, the people on this Committee know what you're going through and we want to help you.  Starting with this newsletter, I will be introducing you to the individual members of the PHN Committee one by one so you can get to know us as people rather than as "inquisitors."  Fittingly, we begin with Dr. Joe Walker.


Joe Walker Pic

Joe Walker, MD

Dr. Walker is an Internist who recently retired after 40 years of medical practice in Water Valley, MS. He is Chairman of the PHN Board of Directors and President of the PHN Committee.  Between MPHP and PHN, Dr. Walker has more than 10 years of experience in professionals health committee work.  Some of you will know Joe as one of the "point persons" in your intervention.  Others will recognize him as the Committee member sitting closest to the participant on the "hot" seat.  Joe will be the first to remind participants that he, too, has sat in that seat!

Dr. Walker, along with Dr. Gary Carr, was instrumental in the early formation of PHN, thus fulfilling the concept of an independent, apolitical professionals health program.  Joe is not one to rest on his laurels, however--retired or not!  He was recently named Chairman of the Board for Branch of Hope, a new halfway house facility in Water Valley, MS.  You can learn more about Branch of Hope in a related article in this newsletter.

PHN would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Walker for all he has done and continues to do for so many.

Glenn Lau

Glenn Lau, MD

PARTICIPANTS!  We are here for you.  
Our goal, as always, is to serve you ever better.  In order to do that, WE NEED YOUR

INPUT.  So speak your mind (anonymously, if you wish...).  Email Donna at    


The Professionals Health Network (PHN) is a 501c3 organization with a representative Board of Directors dedicated to assisting licensed healthcare professionals in the state of Mississippi whose Boards choose to participate.  We provide groups in our state with educational opportunities and will be pleased to tailor a program to your organization's unique needs.  PHN works with professionals with potentially impairing illness such as addiction, psychiatric illness, behavioral problems and sexual disorders.   We provide education, intervention, referral for appropriate evaluation and treatment and subsequent monitoring.  We provide earned advocacy to professionals who are in compliance with our requirements.  To learn more, visit our web site at or call our Executive Director, Ms. Donna Young at 601-261-9899.


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