New chair of Global Bridges, NDC looks to the future

14-JTaylorJ. Taylor Hays
Mayo Clinic
14-flag United States of America
12 Sep 2014

As the new chair of the Nicotine Dependence Center as well as of Global Bridges, please share with us some of your ideas and/or plans to build upon the good work done so far by both:

The Mayo Clinic NDC will continue to provide the best care for patients with tobacco dependence through a variety of programs in the clinic setting and in the hospital as well as residential treatment. We will also continue to provide treatment through a team-based approach with our Tobacco Treatment Specialist counselors seeing patients for consultation and developing a personalized treatment plan in conjunction with a physician partner who will provide effective pharmacotherapy.

We do not plan major changes to this model of care although we will be exploring new ways to support patients after the initial consultation by leveraging newer technologies and social media.

Global Bridges is going through substantial changes. We are not changing our mission and focus on developing a network of well-trained health care providers who are able to deliver evidence-based treatment to tobacco users.  However, some of our tactics are changing.

Instead of working with a select group of regional partners as the main outreach to the WHO regions, we are now going to work with numerous organizations in each region who have successfully competed for grants to develop training and build capacity for tobacco dependence treatment.

The grantees have been selected by an expert review panel with focus on applicants from low-middle income countries where there have been few resources to support tobacco treatment capacity building.

We are excited about this new phase of our work, expecting to see these “seeds” planted through the grants grow the Global Bridges network much further, with greater interconnectedness and with a much broader reach. We will also grow our presence on the internet and hope to see the Global Bridges website become a nexus of valuable of formation for health care providers who are champions for tobacco treatment and tobacco control efforts.

Please share with us an overview of your educational background:

I trained at Vanderbilt University for my undergraduate medical education and completed Internal Medicine residency at Vanderbilt. I served as a chief medical resident for one year and then served on the faculty of Vanderbilt University Medical School for several years before coming to Mayo Clinic.

What has been the main focus of your work during your career?

One of my early mentors provided me opportunities to work with patients with substance abuse problems, and this formed the basis for my interest in addiction treatment. My medical practice has been in internal medicine and for the past 23 years included the focus on tobacco dependence treatment. The majority of my career has been spent in academic medical practice where I have been engaged in teaching students, residents and practitioners.

I have also engaged in clinical research in tobacco dependence treatment. The variety of activities– practice, education and research– has been something that has kept me fully engaged. For a number of years I have also devoted effort to medical administration and have held a number of leadership roles at Mayo Clinic as well as providing mentoring and coaching to aspiring leaders.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your work?

The greatest challenge, and greatest pleasure I find is in helping patients work through difficult and complex medical problems. The relationship becomes deep very fast. My most vivid memories of are of some of my most challenging patients.

Regardless the outcome of the diagnostic journey, I know I can help patients navigate some of the most consequential decisions they will ever make. It is a huge challenge, but very rewarding.

What are some success stories as a result of your work?

Every smoker we help to quit is on my list of greatest successes. In our Residential Program I see the patients every day for 8 days and support them in the early journey through withdrawal, sometimes despair, but always ending in great hope as they leave our program having not smoked for a week and with a plan to remain smoke free.

Aside from the relationship with patients, the greatest joy I have at work is working at Mayo Clinic with a team of dedicated professionals who are the best in the world at their jobs. This includes counselors, nurses, allied health staff and colleagues.

What was the reason you got involved with this type of work?

Interest in addictions was raised in me early in my career because of an early mentor who ran an addictions treatment program at Vanderbilt. I worked in that program until I left Vanderbilt.

At Mayo Clinic there was a relatively new program treating tobacco dependence (the NDC). I was very interested in working in this program because of the experience I had in treating addictions; and as a specialist in internal medicine I saw daily the negative impact smoking had on my patients. I wanted to help patients stop smoking and I wanted to make an impact on raising awareness of the need to treat tobacco dependence. The NDC allowed me to focus my efforts in this way and have a voice that could be heard across the US and internationally.