Dr. Kamaljeet Girn of the Northshore Health Center in Portage has been awarded the Smoke-Free Champion Award by Anthem Medicaid. The award, given to health care providers in Indiana, recognizes a physician who demonstrates an exemplary effort for reducing and preventing smoking in the state.
“Anthem Medicaid selects one physician champion per quarter throughout the year for their efforts in smoking cessation and prevention,” said Laura Betton of Anthem Medicaid. “This year, Dr. Girn was nominated for our second quarter. I completed medical worker reviews and the charts for his patients throughout the provider group, and they were exceptional. Based on Dr. Girn’s progress in his assessment of patients, working through the five stages of quitting smoking with his patients, and encouraging all the providers within his group to do the same, we chose him for this award at this time.”
Dr. Girn sees combating smoking as a serious responsibility for physicians, reasoning that the help to quit smoking frequently won’t come from other sources. As such, he encourages patient assessment that checks new and returning patients for smoking, depression, and other contributing factors that can lead to many of the health problems that the team at Northshore works to solve. He also stresses how much of a team effort is involved with the award, relying on the entire medical staff and the patients as well when it comes to decreasing the amount of smoking in Portage.
“Being a primary care physician, I think we are on the front lines to prevent certain diseases and assess the risk factors,” says Dr. Girn. “Smoking is definitely a risk factor for the top four deaths in the United States. That includes heart attack, lung cancer, stroke, and emphysema, or COPD. There are many other risk factors, including osteoporosis, or brittle bones. This is also a non-sexual behavior that can cause cervical cancer as well. So I think it’s important for us to recognize these dangers, and properly assess our patients when they come in, which we’ve been doing for many years.”
A person who quits smoking, or other addictions, goes through five stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and the prevention of relapse. Dr. Girn’s screening of the patients at Northshore includes an effort to determine which stage any given patient is in, knowing that it’s easier to act on change at certain stages than at others.
He also tries to make sure that even the patients who don’t yet want to quit smoking will take small steps, sometimes as little as cutting back on one cigarette every day. Sometimes if the medical risks aren’t convincing enough, it’s worth pointing out the financial savings that arise when a person stops spending money on cigarettes.
“I think in Porter County there’s about a twenty percent decrease in smoking which is a wonderful thing,” said Dr. Girn. “Obviously it’s a collective effort. We’re making constant efforts. Being a medical and clinical director we made a protocol to make sure that we’re providing not just the highest quality care, but also an emphasis on smoking prevention which includes preventative care, obesity, and smoking as well. On every visit we make sure that we address obesity and smoking to make sure that we follow those protocols.”
The next Smoke-Free Champion Award will likely be presented some time in September after we enter the next quarter.
“Anthem Medicaid serves two populations for the state of Indiana,” said Betton. “We serve Hoosier Healthwise and the Healthy Indiana Plan members.”