Department head seeks to educate professionals on recognizing, treating addiction

Photo by Julie Tripp
Photo by Julie Tripp

Following the death of his son, a VCU department head is hoping to change the narrative in the field of medicine regarding how professionals view and treat addiction.

Omar Abubaker, head of the VCU Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, presented “Compassion in the Midst of Addiction: A Doctor’s Journey of Turning Grief into Education,” for the Jan. 19 installment of Thursday Theology’s monthly Bible studies.

The presentation was dedicated to Abubakar’s son, Adam, to others who have been lost to addiction and to young people who fight each day to stay in recovery.

“I want(ed) to know the killer of my son,” Abubaker said of his motivation to complete a certification with the International Programme in Addiction Studies.

VCU is one of three universities that collaborated to create IPAS, which offers online courses that culminate in a range of certifications. Abubaker will attend a graduation ceremony in London this summer.

Abubaker began last week’s lecture with examples of compassion across a variety of religions, stressing that compassion is also essential in the medical practice, especially in terms of treating addiction which he said doctors are ill-educated on and not equipped to deal with.

“We have terminology to describe people who are addicted that has everything but compassion,” Abubaker said, “If a doctor doesn’t have compassion for a person, then the doctor cannot treat the patient.”

Abubaker said that there is no separation between his personal and professional experiences with addiction. When he is faced with the issue as a professional, he said he often shares his son’s story with patients so they know he’s not judging them.

“I think we need to change the narrative and the conversation about addiction from (being) some other social or behavioral disease to an organic brain disease,” Abubaker said. “Accepting addiction as a disease made it easy for me to practice compassion as a tool in approaching a patient with addiction.”

Melissa Burton is the Financial and Academic Coordinator for the Center for Professional Education at VCU and founder of Thursday Theology. Burton said she selected the idea of compassion as the theme of the presentation.

“I meet a lot of people in a lot of different areas and one of the things that is very important to me is compassion,” Burton said. Part of Burton’s background is homeless and prison ministries.

Thursday Theology’s monthly events alternate between the MCV and Monroe Park campuses and feature guest speakers or group discussions. The Jan. 19 event took place in the W. Baxter Perkinson Jr. Building, which is part of the VCU School of Dentistry.


Georgia Geen, Staff Writer

Julie Tripp, Photo Editor

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  1. Compassion in the Midst of Addiction – Zechariah's Song Ministries

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