2 Minutes With Itai Danovitch MD

Dr. Danovitch is director of Addiction Psychiatry Services and is currently involved with Cedars-Sinai's transition to a smoke-free campus. He took a few moments to sit down with Pulse to talk about helping people with addictions.

What brought you to Cedars-Sinai?

It's a terrific hospital with an outstanding reputation and it's geographically situated at a junction in Los Angeles to offer psychiatric services to a community that needs them. It was also a great opportunity to work with Jeff Wilkins, M.D., who is a mentor to me and a leader in the field.

What do you think about Cedars-Sinai becoming a smoke-free campus?

Given the widespread recognition of the problems associated with smoking and second-hand smoke, becoming smoke free is really the minimum standard for a hospital and providing additional services is ideal. There's always trepidation with such a change, however, because no one wants to take away the rights of others.

Why did you decide to specialize in addiction?

Addiction is a very exciting field. We have a lot of information as to how it develops, but we have very limited resources to give people help.

Personally, I was always really fascinated by the notion that people with awareness and insight into their personal problems still had difficulty actually changing their behavior. That's constantly challenging and requires you to be resourceful as a physician.

What's the hardest thing about your job?

It's hard to watch people persistently behave in ways that cause suffering to themselves and their families. Addiction destroys a lot of lives and there's a sadness to the senselessness of that. It's also sometimes hard to work with a group of patients who at times very much want help, and at other times want nothing to do with what you have to offer.

Another hard thing is that while we have very effective treatments, there isn't the funding and resources for everyone to get better. For example, impaired physicians have incredible outcomes and the same goes for pilots. Those are two populations that typically have the resources to follow through on the treatment recommendations required of them by their licensing boards when they get into drug problems.

What's it like to see your specialty being the focus of reality TV shows and celebrity news?

I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, the more information the better. On the other, these shows often trivialize addiction in an effort to dramatize it.

In the past, you've done research evaluating medication for alcoholism among other things. What are your current professional interests?

I really enjoy combining therapy with medication. Therapy helps people gain insight into their addiction and salvage meaning from all the destruction. I also have a strong interest in PTSD and the extent to which people use drugs to self-medicate.

What do you do for fun outside of work?

I play with my two children. I love the outdoors and especially like playing basketball.

Dr. Danovitch is also associate director of the Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. You can reach him at itai.danovitch@cshs.org.