President, Chief Executive Officer, Executive Medical Director
Professional Assistance Program of New Jersey
Princeton, NJ, USA
Industry: Business Services
Field: Health Care Professional Assistance
According to the National Institute of Mental Health’s Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey of 1991, health care professional impairment is a serious issue that affects 10-15 percent of the population. As the president, chief executive officer and executive medical director of the Professional Assistance Program of New Jersey, Dr. Louis E. Baxter Sr. has dedicated his life to assisting and improving conditions for afflicted health care professionals in the state of New Jersey. He does so by diagnosing individuals with impairing conditions and establishing treatment plans for them.
The PAPNJ provides several crucial services to help improve the situation for health care professionals. From education and identification, to evaluation, treatment and monitoring, the organization truly impacts the bottom line for a healthy hospital setting. “Health care professionals have issues involved with themselves getting diseases, diagnosing themselves and — certainly — with [prescribing] ongoing treatment,” Dr. Baxter Sr. explains. “There are a lot of factors including licensing boards, malpractice insurance issues and hospital privileges that have to be identified and addressed.” To further their positive impact, the PAPNJ also provides assistance to hospitals to help them maintain their JCAHO certification. Each hospital is required to have a committee dedicated to identifying impairment. The PAPNJ provides those services through a contract as a “hospital authorized party.”
Substance addiction is a serious issue that affects the brain and behavior, negatively affecting millions of Americans in their daily lives. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, alcohol, nicotine and addictive substances “cost Americans upwards of half a trillion dollars per year,” factoring in the medical, criminal, economic and social consequences. Dr. Baxter Sr. has demonstrated an extraordinary degree of care and concern for those health care professionals (and the general public) who are beset with some kind of addiction. He considers these people to be impaired by a medical disease, much like any other, and considers them a high priority for the PAPNJ.
Dr. Baxter Sr. completed a fellowship in addiction medicine at Portsmouth Hospital, and a residency and internship in internal medicine in 1981 at Cooper University Hospital. He received an MD in 1978 from the Temple University School of Medicine. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in American Civilization and a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1973 from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Baxter Sr. holds board certification from the American Board of Addiction Medicine. He is a certified medical review officer by the Medical Review Officer Certification Council and a certification candidate of the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Conversation with Louis E. Baxter Sr., MD, FASAM
Worldwide Publishing: What would you like to promote most about yourself or your business?
Louis E. Baxter Sr.: I think that the business is outstanding because we stay current with state-of-the-art evidence space information and our staff is certified in their various fields of addiction treatment. We have counselors who are certified addiction counselors and all of our physicians are members of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and have certifications through the American Board of Addiction Medicine. Our facility always provides cutting-edge quality care.
Do you have a motto that you live by?
“Always strive for the best.”
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
The most rewarding aspect is seeing individuals get well and get into true recovery in terms of their lives, family, careers, and standing in the community.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
The best is yet to come.
What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
My short-term goal is to continue to educate other physicians and the general public about the nature of addictive disorders and let them know that these diseases, although they cannot be cured, can be put into remission so people can live a normal life.
And what specific steps have you taken toward achieving these goals?
I am the president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine so many of our programs and outreach endeavors are geared to [educate the public]. We are involved with teaching and educational efforts — not only for addiction medicine, but for specialized practitioners as well.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
It’s the lack of recognition that many practitioners experience concerning addictive disorders and how they impact general medical care. In medical school and most residency training programs, very little is taught about addiction and therefore many practitioners cannot recognize it. If you can’t recognize it, you can’t appropriately treat it.
On what topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Addiction medicine, drug abuse testing, medical review and health care professional impairment.
How do you remain current in your profession?
I participate in continuing education courses and am actively involved with several agencies, keeping me on the cutting edge of information. This includes the American Society of Addiction Medicine; also, groups who do research for addictive disorders, such as the National Institute of Drug Abuse (of which I am a member of their National Advisory Council), the National Institute of Alcohol, Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration. These are the leading national organizations that do research on the disease of addiction and also the current treatment of addiction disorders.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
Getting full recognition of addiction as a chronic medical illness and, in turn, getting insurance coverage to adequately treat these individuals. We are still going through the process of negotiating with insurance carriers to adequately pay for the services these people need.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
Dr. Andrea Barthwell, the past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Dr. Robert Dupont and Dr. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D., the current deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, have all influenced me throughout my career.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about treating folks who have addictive disorders and getting the word out to health care professionals and the general public that addictive disorders are real diseases — they are not willful misconduct, and if treated appropriately, these patients can get well and return to become productive.