Changing the Perception of Addiction
“The field of addiction medicine has shown me how harmful labels and language can be, but also the power of hope,” shared Kelly Dunn, M.D., executive director of clinical treatment at National Center for Wellness & Recovery. Dunn has devoted her career to understanding and caring for patients with mental illness and substance use disorders and works to educate medical professionals on how to recognize and treat addictive behaviors.
A clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at OSU Center for Health Sciences, she chose to specialize in addiction medicine because of her fascination with the emerging brain science of psychiatry and addiction medicine. “I knew I would enjoy learning more about these areas the rest of my life,” said Dunn. “I especially love learning how the mind, body and spirit are all connected, and how I can help others be whole and healthy by applying a good understanding of how each of these areas contribute and interact.”
Inspired by her mother’s 35-year nursing career, Dunn believes health care is a calling. “My mother’s devotion, skill and love for others was always inspirational and I knew I wanted to find that one day for myself. I have found that in my work at NCWR, and I work with a wonderful team whose diverse background and experience enrichens my daily work and without whom none of the work I do would be possible,” said Dunn.
While the stigma of other diseases has improved in recent years, Dunn believes individuals struggling with addiction are still treated as though they have moral failures and character flaws. This barrier to treatment is of significant personal focus for Dunn and she is passionate about changing perceptions among her patients and the community. “I enjoy fighting shame and stigma with science and kindness, and seeing lives transformed and people set free,” shared Dunn.
The medical community recognizes addiction as a complex brain disease, but even some health care professionals still don’t have the knowledge or skills needed to care for those suffering from addiction. Through continued medical education and community awareness, the experts at NCWR are sharing the science behind addiction and working to eliminate shame and guilt associated with addiction. “People suffer unnecessarily and do not seek treatment because of the words we use. So I am much more aware of how my language may impact others and work toward choosing words that instill hope and healing,” said Dunn.
Deanne Vick | December 2020