Canadian Medical Association

Dr. Thomas (Tommy) Brothers

Thomas Brothers

In downtown Halifax, Dr. Tommy Brothers is no stranger to people struggling with addiction and homelessness.

“They often call out to him,” says colleague Dr. Kenneth Rockwood. “Typically, he stops and has a few words specific to that person … I have heard medical residents talk about how that simple act has shown them how to engage with people from whom they’ve always averted their eyes.”

Though still completing his general internal medicine residency at Dalhousie University, Dr. Brothers is already a key player in transforming addictions services in Nova Scotia hospitals.

He helped build an inpatient addiction medicine consultation service for patients admitted to hospital with medical complications of addiction and developed a protocol for emergency departments to initiate treatment for opioid use disorder. He also spearheaded policies to allow hospitals to distribute naloxone kits.

 “The abstinence-only model doesn’t work in hospitals. People get pushed away; people die,” explains Dr. Brothers.

Knowing the importance of continuity of care for marginalized patients, Dr. Brothers works with community-based organizations, including Mobile Outreach Street Health (MOSH) and Mainline Needle Exchange, in these initiatives. He partners with community-based addiction medicine physicians to review cases and arrange ongoing care.

“Referring to the hospital, they call me their ‘guy on the inside,’” says Dr. Brothers. “I get to work with amazing teams, and it’s hard to believe these partnerships with community groups have never existed before.”

“Tommy has dedicated himself to mobilizing systematically better responses that can provide care for the vulnerable in society.”  – Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, Dalhousie University

Working toward grassroots-level change

Dr. Brothers has worked to educate his colleagues about addictions issues, providing continuing professional development education for Nova Scotia physicians, pharmacists and nurses.

He has also had national influence through speaking engagements for the Canadian Society of Internal Medicine, the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and the Atlantic Canada Cardiovascular Conference.

“He has a remarkable ability to bring people together and inspire them,” says Dr. Rockwood.

As he finishes his residency, Dr. Brothers is concurrently pursuing a PhD in epidemiology and public health at University College London, where his research focuses on preventing invasive bacterial infections among people who inject drugs.

Dr. Thomas Brothers is receiving the CMA Award for Young Leaders (Resident) in recognition of his exemplary creativity, initiative and commitment to making a difference at the local, provincial/territorial or national level.

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