NEWS | September 14, 2018

From top student to top doc

Primary care physician aims to reduce opioid-related deaths


Olivia Campa distinguished herself as a UC Davis medical student and resident with her dedication to delivering high-quality, compassionate care to financially disadvantaged patients.

Olivia Campa Olivia Campa

Now, Campa is putting her training and commitment to work as a general internal medicine physician at One Community Health, a Sacramento Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and UC Davis Health partner in assuring access to care for all patients, regardless of their abilities to pay. Her current focus is ensuring that patients with opiate dependence get the care they need, including medication assisted therapy, or MAT.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared opioid misuse a “national epidemic” and estimates that more than 2 million people in the U.S. have an opioid-use disorder. Primary care providers like Campa are on the frontlines of addressing that epidemic. Here, she talks about what that means for her medical practice.

Why has addiction treatment become your passion?

Street drug dealers are changing the formulation of heroin and using more powerful synthetic opiates, causing overdose rates to rise exponentially. There are cities in the U.S. where synthetic fentanyl has 100 percent replaced heroin. We have seen this locally as well. I want to be part of the solution and help prevent opioid-related deaths among the most vulnerable patients in our community. Beyond that, I learned in medical school and in my residency how to deliver comprehensive and respectful care for all medical conditions — including addiction.

What does MAT involve?

"I feel lucky to be a primary care doctor in the great community of Sacramento and am so excited to see how we can work together to better care for the patients who need us the most."
— Olivia Campa

MAT gives physicians safe prescribing options for opiate dependency, and we have established a MAT program at One Community Health. The first step is induction, or starting the patient on buprenorphine, which partially binds to the same receptor as heroin or prescription opiates, but does not result in respiratory depression or overdose. The result can be abstinence from illicit opiate use. I am able to stabilize patients with buprenorphine (Dr. Campa is authorized by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to do this), and then focus on their other health care needs. I believe it is important to do MAT in primary care settings. The relationship between primary care doctors and their patients is very special, which can improve the chances of abstinence.

What challenges have you faced with this work?

There is huge stigma associated with opioid use and dependence. It can be difficult for patients to ask for and access help, but it can also be difficult for health systems to deliver compassionate, comprehensive services. I spend a lot of time talking with my colleagues in the community about barriers to addiction care and ways to minimize them, so we can work across systems to provide seamless care for patients. Many of my patients have had terrible past experiences with health care systems, and I work hard to rebuild their trust and invite them to join me in being hopeful this time around. In addition to being their doctor, I am an advocate for them in our community.

What is your next goal?

My next goal is operational. FQHCs in our area recently integrated their electronic health record platforms so we can view patient records and health histories. The next step is to use that integrated system to facilitate care transitions between UC Davis Health and FQHCs that provide MAT services. This is a large step in the right direction from patient care and safety standpoints. I feel lucky to be a primary care doctor in the great community of Sacramento and am so excited to see how we can work together to better care for the patients who need us the most.

Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs, are community-based health care providers funded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to provide primary care to medically underserved populations. UC Davis Health works with five FQHCs to broaden access to high-quality health services in the Sacramento region.

UC Davis School of Medicine is among the nation’s leading medical schools, recognized for excellence in primary care training and translational research that improves clinical care. At the core of the school’s spirit is a commitment to reducing health inequalities and providing care for medically underserved communities.