PHN Newsletter, April 2012


April 2012                                        Professionals Health Network News 
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In This Issue
Spring is Springing...
More Serenity Prayers
Feedback 101
Fishing in Serenity Pond?

Quick Quotes & Editor's Notes...

Deb Gross Resized 

"Walk, water and weed."



As Spring returns to the Earth, renewal comes to mind.  New growth requires both sun and rain, so Spring can be a powerful theme for recovery.   In any growth process, we have to keep moving forward, water the soil and pull up a few weeds here and there....


What emotional crops are you planting? What fruits and vegetables do you hope to hope to pick come harvest time?  


Once we know what crops we want to harvest, we must ask ourselves what seeds we need to plant today in order to reap the bounty when the time comes.  Abundance doesn't happen by accident, right? Are there some weeds that need pulling?  Does the ground need to be prepared in some way?  How hard are we willing to work? 


We are not in charge of when (or even whether...) the seeds come up. And we can't make the leaves unfurl or the buds appear or the luscious fruit set on the vine.  What we CAN do is walk through the field and plant the seeds and water the ground and pull up the weeds. To quote Julia Cameron in her creative effort prayer, from a favorite book of mine called The Artist's Way, "Lord, I'll take care of the quantity and you take care of the quality." 




Participants, you may be interested in SAMSHA's new definition of recovery.  The dialogue is ongoing dialogue so you can even put in  your own 2 cents! I wish you renewal and refreshment in this season of growth.  Don't hesitate to get help when you need it.  Lift your your heart to the light and move toward the new life you seek. Please let me know how we can help you better.


Deborah V. Gross, MD

Editor-in-Chief, PHN News

Diplomate, ASAM

APA Fellow

Member, ACP

Meet the Committee 
Professionals who get good treatment and are then intensively monitored in programs like PHN show far greater recovery rates but the process isn't always easy.

Dr. Lau is interviewing Committee members to "introduce" them in the newsletter.  Dr. Lau says that interviewing Dr. Duane Burgess was a particular challenge because he's so quiet.

Dwayne Burgess Pic
Duane Burgess, MD

Dr. Burgess is a psychiatrist who has spent virtually his entire career in Hattiesburg, MS.  During his training in Iowa, he developed a special interest in addictive disease.

Dr. Burgess feels a lot of empathy for people with the disease of addiction and he worked with Mississippi Physicians Health Program (MPHP) from its inception, alongside Dr. Gary Carr.  He was also a part of PHN from the beginning. 

Dr. Burgess, working with others, was a pioneer in recognizing the interplay between addiction and psychiatric disease.  He has worked hard to change the approach to the management of this often-stigmatized group of disorders.  His strong, quiet input has helped participants by helping the Committee manage many complex issues as he keeps us mindful that there is more to recovery than just abstinence. 


Our multi-talented Medical Director, Dr. Alexis Polles, has been a certified EMDR therapist since 2007. She is also an EMDR Consultant InTraining and volunteers for the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Programs.  She spent April 2-6 at the Soldier Center in Clarksville, TN, learning an intensive intervention approach  taught by E. C. Hurley, PhD.  Dr. Hurley is a renowned expert in both EMDR and complex trauma in military personnel.


Dr. Gary Carr, PHN Medical Director Emeritus, has been nominated President Elect of FSPHP and nominated for the ASAM Board of Directors.


Dr. Deb Gross, Committee Member and Editor of PHN News, gave a talk in March with Ms. Denise Marsters on Behavioral Addictions at the first annual "Camp LJAP," a retreat for the Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program of Mississippi.  






Poisoning deaths of kids and       teens up 91% in 2000-2009.


Violent crime on pharmacies up 81%.

A Word From Our Medical Director...
Alexis Polles, MD


"Our experiences today won't come around again--in just the same way.  The people in our lives won't say again just what they'll say today.  We must not miss out on what life offers. We can risk feeling it all, hearing it all, seeing it all."

From Each Day a New Beginning.  1982 Hazelden Foundation.


First of all, I'd like to thank all those who attended the 2012 Mississippi Addictions Conference and took the time to give us feedback on all aspects of the event.  I was anxious while I waited for the data report and I was reminded of anxiety I have felt in therapy groups and with friends, family and colleagues when I've asked--directly or indirectly--for feedback. Asking for and receiving feedback can be painful but many times it's pleasantly surprising.  Either way, it's often a catalyst for growth and an essential part of both recovery and true intimacy with other human beings.  The process of giving and receiving feedback opens us up to the joy of living.


In 1983 Ramaprasad defined feedback generally as "information about the gap between the actual level and the reference level of a system parameter which is used to alter the gap in some way."  This definition reminds us that taking action on information is part of what good feedback is all about.  If there is no action on the information, then the feedback has been ineffective.  Here are some generally accepted guidelines about what constitutes useful interpersonal feedback:


1.  Effective feedback is clear, concise and relevant.

2.  The focus is on the person giving the feedback, so that...

3.  The person getting the feedback can really take it in.

4.  Powerful feedback includes both emotions and 

5.  Self-disclosure.

6.  Effective feedback is not judgmental.


To be sure you get feedback, ask for it directly.  Another way to elicit feedback is to give it.  Good feedback tends to elicit a reaction, so feedback leads to more feedback.  Keep an open mind in order to really learn something from the feedback you get.  And keep in mind that feedback often says as much about the giver as it does about the receiver!


You may contact me on my mobile line (601-520-4814) or at the PHN office (601-261-9899).  We are here for you.


Happy Spring! 


Alexis Polles, MD

Medical Director, PHN



Recovery in action...



Glenn Lau
Glenn Lau, MD


Lamar P. is a long-departed old-timer.
His surname means "stillness and quietude"in Italian and he often spoke of his "serenity pond," an image he used to describe his state of mind.  Lamar had moved beyond seeking relief from the painful consequences of his drinking by the time I came to know about his serenity pond.  However, like the rest of us, he could not escape the occasional pain of living life on life's terms.  Thus there were frequent "ripples" and occasional "waves" on Lamar's serenity pond.  For the most part, though, he found serenity and tranquility on that pond.
For everyone seeking sobriety and peace of mind--newcomer and old-timer alike--the message is the same:  The key to recovery is a program for living based on the 12 steps.  But knowledge of the 12 steps is not the complete solution, nor does it provide the pathway to one's serenity pond.  It is only when we discover (or recover) the spiritual nature of the program that we progress.  By going to meetings, connecting and sharing with others in the program, we come to appreciate the power that is spiritual.
So it was for me not long ago.  It had been weeks since I was able to go to a meeting.  Although the chemotherapy and radiation I was undergoing were relatively uncomplicated, there were times when I was physically unable to function.  Other times I was in enforced "reverse" isolation to protect me from infection.  This did not prevent me from working the other aspects of recovery such as reading and meditation.  And not a day went by without contact with someone in the program, sharing their thoughts and prayers.  At my lowest point, when I required hospitalization, several old-timers showed up for a "mini-meeting" of sorts. Through it all, because of contact with my AA family, I cannot remember a time when I did not have some semblance of peace.
When I returned for my first meeting back, I was greeted by the obligatory "AA hugs" and I was reminded of the role of group unity and fellowship in the maintenance of sobriety.  We truly can't do it alone.  The meeting that day was directed to a newcomer.  As I listened, I realized once again that the message applied to me as well.  For the message we encounter through AA not only provides a guide to getting sober but also defines a pathway to peace.
My mind wandered to Lamar P and his serenity pond.  He, too, had listened to the message, had used the power of the group to get sober and had followed the principles to reach his final goal in life. I remember visiting him in his last days and coming away from our visits feeling that this was a life well-lived.  His legacy and the legacy of others like him live on in the spirituality of the group, inspiring all who choose to follow the path to the serenity pond.

Glenn Lau, MD


Have something to share?  Email Donna at with your thoughts. 


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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