Pass it on: Career-building mentorship moves down the line
Michael Trew, MD, FRCPC, is this year’s recipient of the Mentor of the Year award for Region 1
Perhaps the greatest mark of exceptional mentors comes when their mentees want to pass it on.
Dr. Michael Trew is a trailblazer in mental health and addiction health care in Alberta. He has instilled that desire in trainees by his leadership-example and commitment to mentorship — both structured and unstructured — to get the best possible patient outcomes.
As medical lead, Addiction & Mental Health Special Projects, at Alberta Health Services (AHS), he sets an example as a change facilitator and patient-centred leader.
“Dr. Trew has taught me to be a kind and compassionate leader,” says Robert Tanguay, MD, FRCPC, provincial medical lead for opioid dependency treatment training with AHS. “I have focused on becoming a mentor myself to new addiction and pain physicians, taking what I have learned from Mike and passing it down to others who may benefit.”
Those lessons include how to shake up the system to make something much better.
Dr. Trew brought transformational change to services for mental health and addictions patients in Alberta. This includes successfully advocating for people with lived experience to be involved in patient care. In those discussions, he removed barriers to inclusion by bringing evidence and open dialogue to the table.
“He lobbied not-for-profit agencies, the government and various health bodies on the concept of peer navigation,” says Monty Ghosh, MD, FRCPC, an Addiction Medicine and Internal Medicine specialist at the University of Alberta. To make those with lived experience part of the solution, Dr. Trew addressed outdated notions about mental health deterioration and addiction relapse, and built greater awareness about substance abuse.
In addition to his personal mentor relationships, Dr. Trew created formal learning and mentorship programs where he saw a need. Recognizing the discomfort many physicians feel in prescribing opioid agonist treatment and dealing with addiction and mental health, he created a hotline for doctors to get immediate access to an addictions specialist for support, at any time of day or night.
Dr. Trew also successfully advocated for a physician mentoring program in Alberta to replicate some of the very successful opiate abuse treatment and pain mentoring programs in Ontario, where phone calls and in-person meetings with addictions specialists increase physicians’ awareness and confidence in this area.
Dr. Trew says his mentorship is simply passing on the impactful support he received early in his career.
“I was especially well-supported in my residency years,” he says. “I had a very good mentor and I don’t think I had a clue how much he paved the way for me until looking back years later.”