Dr. Rachel Solotaroff, Central City Concern's Chief Medical Director, reflects on the significant and invaluable contributions Dr. Jessica Gregg has made during her ten years at Central City Concern.
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Sunday, July 31, 2016, marked a momentous occasion: not only was it National Cotton Candy Day and National Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day (these are true, by the way), but it was also the last day at Central City Concern for Dr. Jessica Gregg, our Senior Medical Director of Substance Use Disorder Services.
Time flies. I remember one of Jessica’s first days at CCC, when she and I were assigned the task of developing a Social Medicine Curriculum for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) residents at CCC. This was an idea, incidentally, that Jessica had developed and refined, borne of her work as a cultural anthropologist and physician working in underserved areas of New Orleans and Northeast Brazil. As part of our orientation to CCC, Jessica and I toured around the various sites, starting at Hooper Detox, back when it was on the east end of the Burnside Bridge. I’ll never forget Jess peeking into a dim conference room in the early afternoon, where people were lying on thin mats, one against the other, wearing nondescript surgical scrubs, waiting for admission for detox. It was unlike anything I had seen in the fancier corridors of the OHSU Hospital. And frankly, I didn’t understand it.
“I LOVE this,” said Jess, breathlessly. And she never looked back.
In her ten years at Central City Concern, Jessica has had a truly transformative impact on the agency. She began as a staff physician at Hooper, and rapidly became its medical director. In that role she created systems of continuous quality improvement and implemented innovative clinical protocols, such as the use of Vivitrol® and naloxone. She sought to bring the best evidence and practice in addiction medicine to CCC while maintaining a high-spirited, personal, and approachable atmosphere.
As the founder of the CCC/OHSU Social Medicine Curriculum, she taught hundreds of OHSU residents about the social determinants of health and addictions medicine, and in the process cemented CCC’s pivotal relationship with OHSU. Her work in education has catalyzed numerous emerging internists to focus in fields of addiction medicine and underserved populations, and many of them have brought their skills and interest to practice at CCC.
Jessica also pioneered work to integrate addictions medicine into our intensive outpatient programs, particularly in underserved areas of Portland. At Eastside Concern, she implemented medication-assisted treatment, namely with buprenorphine, to an area and population desperately seeking this resource. Then, as Senior Medical Director, Jessica also expanded her reach to provide medical oversight and consultation to the Letty Owings Center, the Community Engagement Program, and the CCC Recovery Center, ensuring the safety and quality of clinical practice in these programs, and laying the groundwork for future development of clinical programming.
The fundamental value underlying Jessica’s work is her insistence that all our clients and residents deserve the highest possible standard of substance abuse care, including counseling, peer support, employment services and meaningful occupation, housing, and medicine. And then, creatively, methodically, and collaboratively, she improves processes and systems to meet those standards. She powerfully articulates the needs of people with substance use disorders and has had her work published in the Washington Post, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and numerous other publications.
Thanks again, Jess, for sharing your remarkable talent and spirit with us for the past ten years. We are the better for it. May you spend your summer eating cotton candy and learning how to play the Clackamore.