Physician proves impairment isn't a career ender

When physician impairment is identified and handled correctly, it can not only protect patients but also save the doctor's career. Joe Oliver, M.D., a family physician at Rockwell Medical Clinic in Salisbury, N.C., is an example of one such success story.

Until a complaint forced Oliver to surrender his license in October 2007, he was in denial that his drinking was out of control, and had contributed to his stroke the previous year. By the time he had to leave the practice, Oliver was drinking more than he had prior to the stroke, had given up exercise and was unable to walk steadily due to the combination, he told the Salisbury Post.

After completing two rehabilitation programs in 2007, Oliver signed a contract with the North Carolina Physicians Health Program to be monitored. He also submitted to urine testing and underwent speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy, according to the newspaper.

Once an extensive neuropsychological evaluation ensured that alcohol had not impaired his ability to practice medicine, Oliver built a re-entry plan to submit to the North Carolina Medical Board, took another extensive assessment in Colorado at the Center for Personalized Education for Physicians and returned to his practice on Nov. 5, 2012.

"It was wonderful," Oliver said of recovery and returning to practice. "I'm having the time of my life now. Some of the junk and aggravations are still here, but what has changed is my attitude and how I deal with them. Part of the lesson I learned was that drinking never solved any of my problems."

To learn more:
- read the article from the Salisbury Post

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