Faculty Spotlight: J. Trig Brown, MD

Sunday, March 5, 2017

J. Trig Brown, MD, MPH, is a Palliative Care Specialist in our division.  To get to know him better, we asked him the following questions:

Where do you work?
I see in-patient consults at DRH and DUH and take care of in-patient hospice patients at the Hock Family Pavilion, Duke’s wonderful in patient hospice unit.

What is your title?
Medical Director, DRH Palliative Care.

What are your interests in the field of Palliative Care?
I am most interested in helping patients and families find magic, joy and healing when the ability to cure is off the table.

How did you get in to Palliative Care?
After practicing primary care general internal medicine in a variety of different settings (Academic Medicine, Managed-Care HMO, and Private Practice), I was ready for a change.  In primary care, taking care of seriously ill patients was always a satisfying challenge to me.  In fact, this may sound strange to many who are not in the field, helping patients and families find peace while dying, was particularly rewarding.

With that as a backdrop, I called Dr. Robin Turner, Medical Director of Duke Hospice, and soon found myself starting the one-year fellowship at Duke in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.  I completed the fellowship in June 2015 and immediately joined the faculty.  In retrospect, I now see that Primary Care is really the same as Palliative Care, only in slow motion.

What most excites you about your job?
Since I have just been named the Medical Director of Palliative Care at DRH, the politically correct answer is that I am excited about the opportunities that are opening up at DRH.  That is true.  Drs. Bridget Koontz, Veshana Ramiah, and Robin Hardie-Hood, are creating a combined, comprehensive, community-focused cancer center where Radiation Oncology, Medical Oncology and Physical Therapy will all be in one location.  They have invited Palliative Care to have a presence there, and I cannot wait to start seeing their patients with them.

In addition, Dr. Barbara Griffith, DRH CMO, has always been supportive of the Palliative Care team’s past activities and has offered her support us as we expand the consult service, explore ways to bring acute pain service modalities to our DRH patients, and to further integrate a Palliative Care patient- and family-centered focus at all levels at DRH, patient care, education, and research. 

What continues to excite me the most, however, is watching the maturity of the Duke Navigators Project (DNP).  This student designed and run program is the brain child of four second year medical students (Leonid Aksenov, Cosette Dechant, Emily Lydon, and Chloe Peters) and one third year medical student (Neha Kayastha).  The DNP is a program to teach communication skills necessary to care for seriously ill patients.  After piloting the project last year, this year the DNP has enrolled 18 students (6 each from the schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Physician Assistant Program).  I can truly say, I have never worked with such a self-directed group of students.  I am glad to be along for the ride.

In closing, is there anything else you would like to add?
Being at Duke is a wonderful opportunity.  I would encourage every student, resident, and fellow to spend some time in the clinical arenas with Dr. Francis Neelon, Dr. Ray Barfield, and Dr. Richard Bedlack.  There are so many great doctors at Duke; in my opinion, however, those three best demonstrate what it means to be called a healer.