Bridging Parenting and Recovery

Dr. Leah Habersham discusses the challenges —and breakthroughs— that come with treating pregnant people suffering from addiction.



Leah Habersham

[00:00:00] Stephen Calabria: From the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, this is Road to Resilience, a podcast about facing adversity. I'm Stephen Calabria.

[00:00:10] On this episode, we welcome Leah Habersham, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, as well as the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai.

[00:00:23] Dr. Habersham serves as the director of the BRIDGE program at Mount Sinai, which provides reproductive health care and addiction treatment to women living with addiction, including pregnant people.

[00:00:33] The program is one of the first of its kind in New York City, and comes amid a nationwide crisis in substance abuse. The physical and psychological challenges borne by both the patients and their caregivers are a model of true resilience, and of perseverance through hardship. We're honored to have Dr. Habersham on the show.

[00:00:49] Dr. Leah Habersham, welcome to Road to Resilience.

[00:00:54] Leah Habersham: Thank you.

[00:00:55] Stephen Calabria: So who is Dr. Leah Habersham?

[00:00:59] Leah Habersham: I am an OB GYN, and I'm also an addiction specialist, making me an OB addiction specialist. I care for women within the Mount Sinai Health System who are living with addiction, whether they're pregnant or not. They can be at any point in the lifespan. And so I just provide that segment of care.

[00:01:21] Stephen Calabria: And what inspired you to specialize in treating women with addiction?

[00:01:26] Leah Habersham: It's twofold. I am originally from the Bronx. My family, many of them live in the Bronx still. And, that's an area we know is riddled with addiction. I also am a daughter of addiction, and so I have multiple family members, including my father, who have struggled with addiction, and so I'd say that is the first aspect because it gives me, a different perspective of addiction and how long the road to recovery can be, but the fact that no one is too far removed from that.

[00:01:55] But then it's the other half of my drive to pursue this field is the fact that I have worked with patients with substance use disorders and I've found that being an OBGYN and seeing the lack of care available to them, and having that perspective, together, those things also make me want to do this work, because I realized that it's a field where you need people who want to be there and who can understand.

[00:02:25] Stephen Calabria: What are the values and principles, you would say, that guide your approach to providing care for this particular patient population?

[00:02:34] Leah Habersham: Because I've had family members who have dealt with addiction and having people so close to me, I would say that it makes me want to treat my patients the way that I would want my family members in this type of situation to be treated. That's one thing.

[00:02:50] I'd say the other thing is just being understanding and having compassion and empathy for people, because, people come from all walks life, and just being able to have that level of empathy and compassion I think is really important.

[00:03:05] Stephen Calabria: We've talked before about Even the word addict being kind of out of vogue now, it's not really used anymore. What was the reason for that change and what is the preferred word instead?

[00:03:21] Leah Habersham: The reason for the change, I think it's just a bit pejorative and so, referring to patients as addicts, I just wouldn't feel right doing it, and I know many other providers who do this work don't feel comfortable referring to patients as addicts.

[00:03:36] Stephen Calabria: Now you've spoken before about how there's such little support for pregnant people suffering from addiction. What specifically is missing for this population you'd say is normally there for other folks suffering from addiction and why it might be missing?

[00:03:53] Leah Habersham: Yeah, I think first of all, there's a lack of knowledge just about addiction in general, about treating it as a disease about how you treat it.


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