The Role of the Family Physician in Eating Disorder Treatment
It takes a multidisciplinary team to treat eating disorders, and each member plays a vital role in getting clients on the road to recovery. That is why we’re highlighting the various roles within our care team in this blog series.
Dr. Mary Bretzman is one such team member. She serves as The Emily Program’s family physician in our Intensive Day Treatment program and residential program in St. Paul, MN, the Anna Westin House.
She spends her days providing medical services to clients, which may include performing physicals, reviewing lab work or doing EKGs when necessary. She also works closely with clients to help them understand how their behaviors affect them physically.
Dr. Bretzman sees residential clients once a week and sees those in day treatment every other week. Clients must be medically cleared to participate in TEP’s intensive programs.
“I get to spend a lot more time with clients than a typical provider would,” she said. “I may spend an hour just on discussing their past medical history. I have the luxury of seeing them once a week, getting to know them and truly understanding their eating disorder.”
Dr. Bretzman’s role is crucial to the treatment team because eating disorders have so many physical consequences. Without addressing these complications, such as malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, kidney, liver or heart problems, gastrointestinal issues, among others, a client cannot get better.
“An eating disorder is a mental illness with a strong physical presence,” said Dr. Bretzman. “It’s hard to watch clients’ lives and bodies be ravaged by this disease. So, it’s exciting to see them go through recovery and get physically stable after they’ve been so sick.”
She believes with any client, a relationship with a doctor must be a partnership — and that’s what she strives to create. Dr. Bretzman prides herself on engaging clients to help them find their own motivation to make the changes necessary to improve their health.
“I see how important it is to have the expertise and support of therapists, dietitians, psychologists and others all working together,” she said. “Everything is more effective when you have a team, instead of working by yourself. The model TEP has provided has been a rewarding and positive way to practice medicine.”