2018 Family Physician of the Year asks colleagues to build skills to treat chronic pain, addiction

Gerard J. Hevern, MD, FAAFP

Gerard J. Hevern, MD, FAAFP

"Do common things uncommonly well."

Gerard J. Hevern, MD, FAAFP, first heard these words from his football coach, a Franciscan brother at St. Francis Prep in Brooklyn, N.Y. This famous Henry J. Heinz quote became a unifying theme in his life and career, and it also served as the unifying message of Hevern's acceptance speech as the 2018 Family Physician of the Year.

Hevern, from Manchester, N.H., works as the medical director at Elliot Hospital's Pain Management Center at River's Edge, where he cares for patients with chronic pain syndromes and addiction.

"Unfortunately, these common diseases have left our communities, our families, and our practices with tens of millions of patients in pain and, unfortunately, tens of thousands of patients who have died from substance misuse,” he said.

He told the crowd that just like them, he is looking for education and inspiration while at FMX that he can take back to his patients. He asked his colleagues to build the skills necessary to address chronic pain and substance use disorders.

FMX attendees will see as they sit in sessions here and at other conferences that they posses the tools to address these diseases, Hevern said. In fact, family physicians do the job better than any other group of physicians because they deal with chronic diseases daily.

But assisting these patients successfully requires a re-emergence of compassion along with gaining the knowledge and additional skills needed to confidently offer help. Compassion, kindness, inclusiveness, and caring serve as the foundation for the skills required to treat patients with chronic diseases.

"If by using these common skills, you do so uncommonly well, you will share in spirit with me this honor,” he said. "And you, in the eyes of your patients, will be their family physician of the year. Be strong. Stay strong. Do common things uncommonly well.”

Friends, colleagues, and patients praised Hevern in a video played before his speech. They highlighted his connection and dedication to his patients, saying that he was somebody who never gives up and motivates others when they are close to giving up.

Hevern opened the speech with special thanks for his wife, Donna, his children and grandchildren, along with a salute to his brother Vincent, a Jesuit priest and professor, and medical partner Alan Stein, MD, FAAFP.

In the video, he talked about the genesis of his motivation. His interest in addiction started when as a teenager he saw friends using alcohol in problematic ways.

His mother died of cancer when he was 15.

"Family Medicine provides me an opportunity to manage not only the individual who has the illness, but all of the family members that are affected by that illness,” he said. "This really stems from my own experience from when I was a child.” For more about Hevern, go to www.aafp.org/news/2017-congress-fmx/20170915fpoy-hevern.html