Mel Pohl, MD, is Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Nevada School of Medicine, and Medical Director, Las Vegas Recovery Center in Nevada. He is author of The Pain Antidote.
What inspired you to become a healthcare provider?
My Dad always “nagged” me to become a doctor, since I was a little boy. I resisted because I had a fear of blood. My older brother went to medical school and when I visited him, I went to his gross anatomy lab and, despite the foul smell of formaldehyde, when I witnessed the dissection of an arm, I was hooked. I got serious about studying and applied to medical school a few years later and never looked back.
Why did you focus on pain management?
My first job out of residency was working for a family doctor, and I was responsible for covering calls at an addiction treatment center. I loved the work immediately—such an array of diagnoses and a chance to really impact human suffering. About 10 years ago, I realized that opioid dependence and chronic pain coexisted in the majority of my patients, and I proceeded to start studying chronic pain and developing protocols to treat these patients.
Who were your mentors?
Dr. Barry Rosen was one of the first doctors I met who was treating pain and drug addiction. He was a most gentle soul. Dr. Jodi Trafton is a brilliant neuroscientist whose lectures intrigued and drew me deeper into the science. Two Buddhist teachers who had a great impact on my conception of mindfulness were Jon Kabat-Zinn and Pema Chodron.
If you weren’t a healthcare provider, what would you be?
A standup comedian. I love to entertain while I’m teaching, engaging the audience. Leave them laughing.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My insight. I'm not sure where it comes from, but I have the ability to connect with patients. I am able to listen compassionately and help people to see their own hard truths.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
It is the establishment of the Las Vegas Recovery Center Pain Recovery Program. We have created a program where patients can safely detoxify from habit-forming medications. It’s a supportive environment where they can find a new path towards a fulfilling life.
What is your favorite language?
French, because my dad spoke it like a native. I learned to enjoy its melody and expressiveness.
If you had to choose one book, one film, and one piece of music to take into space for an undetermined amount of time, what would they be?
Book: The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger or Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Film: Pay It Forward
Music: Brahm’s 4th Symphony
What would you like your legacy to be?
I’d like people to remember me as a good doctor, teacher, and compassionate caregiver. I hope that people will continue to promote the lessons I’ve learned around spreading the message about opioid induced hyperalgesia and how life can be so much better by changing one's attitude.
What is your motto?
All Pain Is Real!
Posted on January 5, 2017