Lipi Roy was a second-year medical student at Tulane University in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, changing millions of lives, hers included. The evacuation from the natural disaster influenced the way she viewed her work as a physician and made her decide to help people who have lost everything, instead of following the safer path – taking a biomedical research track.
After completing her residency, Roy became a primary care physician at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program in 2011, a place where patients’ needs ranged from dental care to sexual education, to substance use recovery. This program reminded her why she became a physician, a profession where people play many roles, from the good listener to the good doctor, to the good team leader. It was also the place where she learned to address the psychosocial circumstances of her patients, not only their medical condition. „If my patient is worried about where he’s going to sleep tonight or how she’s going to get her next meal, then it really doesn’t matter if I prescribe 9 different medications”, said Roy in an interview.
The leading cause of death among homeless patients in Boston was drug overdose in 2013, and it completely transformed the way she and her colleagues provided care to homeless and incarcerated patients. She and her team then created a drug overdose task force and offered all the doctors on staff the chance to become trained in addiction medicine. Roy wanted to have a better understanding of addiction and substance use disorders, so she became certified in addiction medicine.
Roy says her greatest teachers have been her patients, who taught her how to provide non-judgemental care to society’s most vulnerable and overlooked citizens. The connections she made with them have been the most rewarding aspect of her job. One patient she remembers fondly was an 81 years old WWII veteran, widowed, with no children, who managed to go on with his everyday life despite chronic pain from osteoarthritis and multiple cardiac issues.
In 2016, Roy joined New York City Health Hospitals to be the new Chief of Addiction Medicine in the Division of Correctional Health, because she was looking for the next challenge. With over 50% of the population experiencing some type of substance use issue, Rikers Island was definitely the place.
She now takes care of patients at a Brooklyn-based addiction treatment center and is a strong advocate for public service. But Roy’s passion for health goes beyond the borders of her professional life. In her spare time, she runs Spices for Life MD, a blog where she writes about the benefits of spices, wellness and healthy living. She also writes articles in publications like Forbes, The Huffington Post and medical platforms, as a way to reach more people who share the same passion for healthy lifestyle. It was also a way to have her voice heard. Because, she says, “What’s the point of going to school for all these years and getting all this knowledge if I can’t share it with the people around me?”
Get to know Lipi Roy’s work:
- From Hardship To Healing. Lipi Roys writes about the complicated journey of the incarcerated women she met at Rikers Island, when she was Chief of Addiction Medicine for NYC jails. She rings the alarm saying they would be better off receiving rehabilition in the community rather than being locked up in a criminal justice system created by men, for men.
- ‘They Had It All’: Five Major Misconceptions About Suicide. Lipi Roy shares 5 common misconceptions about suicide and the truth behind them.
- Delight And Despair: How Stress And Emotional Trauma Unfold In The 2019 Oscar-Nominated Films. Roy tends to see the world through the lens of health, that is why she handpicked some of this year Oscar-nominated films that portray the same complex array of problems experienced by the patients she cares for in the Brooklyn-based addiction treatment center: poverty, unemployment, physical and sexual abuse, grief and substance use.
- What helpful lessons can public health practitioners bring to medical doctors working with substance abuse or addiction? Lipi discusses the roots of opioid misuse and shares tips for changing perspectives and stigmas to effectively address addiction.
Lipi Roy is speaking at the 9th edition of The Power of Storytelling. Register here to meet her and the other amazing speakers who will tackle this year’s theme: Heal.