Dr. Haley Busch

For Haley Busch, PharmD, her first-of-its-kind job combines personal and professional passions with one goal: saving lives.

In June 2019, Dr. Busch made history: She became CHI Saint Joseph Health’s first clinical pharmacist specialist in opioid stewardship and pain management, and the first at a community health system in Kentucky. Her job places her in the thick of the campaign to curb the Commonwealth’s opioid crisis.

“I provide education, consultation and updates to policies and procedures to ensure the health system manages pain appropriately, according to the latest evidence-based literature and guidelines,” Dr. Busch said. “My program seeks to prevent prescribing opioids to patients who have never before been exposed to them, if possible, calls for safe use and monitoring of opioids when indicated, promotes and integrates the use of nondrug and nonopioid methods of pain control, and fosters compassionate and comprehensive care for patients with opioid use disorder.”

How a Project Led to a Career

Dr. Busch traces her passion for opioid stewardship and helping people with addiction to an honor society project during her third year of pharmacy school at the University of Kentucky. As the society’s president, she and other members set up a distribution table for naloxone — a drug that reverses the effects of opioids to prevent overdose — at a local health department. Once a week, they provided the lifesaving drug free of charge, along with patient counseling. Dr. Busch and the other pharmacy students extended similar services to shelters, halfway houses and police departments.

“We worked with media and film students at the university to create two public service announcements that aired at local movie theaters and on radio stations to educate the public about naloxone and destigmatize addiction,” Dr. Busch said. “We also published an academic article about the benefits of pharmacy student-led naloxone counseling.”

Meaningful Moments

Like so many other health care roles, Dr. Busch’s is about people. Certain moments she shares with patients underscore that — and keep her passion for what she does burning bright.

“When speaking with a patient about naloxone use at the health department, the individual said, ‘I have never before been treated like a human by any other health care professional. Thank you for making me feel human today, and for taking the time to show that you care about me,’” Dr. Busch said. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to help save lives through my work both inside and outside of the hospital.”

“All patients are worth our time, attention and respect, no matter what choices they’ve made.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.