Dr. Northam Takes Opioid Crisis Message to Med Students

Oct 2, 2018

The opioid crisis has touched every corner and demographic of Virginia.

Ralph Northam has been using his roles both as governor and as a pediatric neurologist to talk about it.

Governor Ralph Northam brought plenty of stats and state programs to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Tuesday. But he also brought personal stories from his own experience as a physician.

"I have heard this story over and over again that the journey, this path of addiction, often starts with a prescription from someone like me," Northam told a packed lecture hall. 

Gov. Ralph Northam (left) and Ryan Hall talk to students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Tuesday.
Credit David Seidel/Radio IQ

That’s exactly what happened to Ryan Hall after he broke his leg in a high school football game.  Prescription pills led to heroin and treatment for a near-fatal overdose. "I had the Narcan one time," Hall remembered.  "I believe I overdosed more times than that, but I just didn’t realize it."

The son of the Alleghany County Sheriff, Hall joined Northam at the front of the classroom and told the future doctors he’s now a year sober, though it took an 18 month jail sentence and treatment to get there.  It's a story Hall and Northam have recounted at other medical schools around Virginia over the past few months.

Northam stressed the importance of following up with patients and weaning them off painkillers when they’re needed.

"Whether you are taking care of someone like Ryan or an autistic child, they come to you not so much for a diagnosis, but they come to you because they want your help," Northam told the students.

And the worst thing a doctor could do, Northam says, is let a patient walk out the door without any hope.