Fifteen to 45 minutes. That’s the total amount of time that Dr. Lee Salsburg typically has with each patient she sees at Central City Concern’s Hooper Detox Center. Acutely aware of her time limitations, Lee is intentional about what she can offer to each patient besides making sure that all the medical loose ends – like medication and protocol – are tied up.
“I hope to bring a level of respect for each patient as a human being. Kindness. Generosity. Simple things our patients might not get elsewhere.”
Lee understands that the majority of the highly vulnerable individuals she sees have arrived at Hooper as a result of some combination of broken systems, the disease of addiction, and personal choices. The patients Lee works with are those without access to the resources that allow others in more fortunate positions to absorb and rebound from the ravaging effects addiction can have on lives. It has always pained Lee, who started her medical career in family medicine, to see patients without access to housing, education, or quality healthcare.
“Medicine is the way I can hopefully level the playing field even just a little bit.”
Working in such a transient setting can make it difficult to recognize progress. But Lee tries to catch and acknowledge even the smallest victories. Sometimes that comes from conversations with patients who are honest with themselves and to her about their addiction and have acknowledged the measures they need to take in order to make a change. Other times it’s the sight of a patient who becomes noticeably relieved after Lee assures him that their current level of hygiene is okay with her.
With each 15-to-45- minute patient interaction, Lee doesn’t only see the patient for the day’s needs. She acknowledges his past. She hopes for his future.
“We’ve all made mistakes, but there’s always possibility past that point to change. This is not a point of judgment, it’s a point of departure for better things.”
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Lee's story is part of Central City Concern's week-long series to celebrate National Health Center Week by highlighting just a few of the many extraordinary people who make the work of CCC's health centers possible. The week of August 9 through August 15 is a time to recognize the services and contributions of health centers that provide affordable, high quality, cost effective health care to medically vulnerable and underserved people throughout the United States.
Learn more about CCC and National Health Center Week by reading a post introducing this series from Leslie Tallyn, CCC's Chief Clinical Operations Officer.