Welcome to ACS' member spotlight, where we shine the light on one of our members as they share their story and what led them to become a member of ACS.
This month, we shine the spotlight on Frederick A. Slezak, MD, MBA, FACS, FASCRS, FACG.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A: Currently I live in Akron, Ohio where I attended the University of Akron and later The Ohio State University College of Medicine from 1975 - 1978 right when all drug policy changes were being made including the DEA and the CSA.
Aside from living in Columbus, Ohio for three years, I spent a year in Champaign/Urbana, Illinois at the Carle Foundation Hospital for my fellowship. My interaction with cannabis was non-existent throughout all of this time!
Q: Do you have a medical specialty?
A: I am board certified in General and Colon and Rectal Surgery with the latter being my main focus of practice until 2019 when I retired from surgery.
Q: What got you interested in cannabis as medicine?
A: The Ohio cannabis program (which is unfortunately called the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program) was signed into law in 2016 by the governor (having failed a vote initiative a couple of years earlier.) When I first heard about the program in 2016, I also started receiving questions from patients about the use of cannabis for their symptoms. My practice included patients with Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and cancer, many of whom had chronic pain related to their treatment and not their disease.
Over the years I had several patients using cannabis (self-treatment) and like many physicians I ignored what they were telling me. Just before the Ohio program became "legal" I had a patient with Ulcerative Colitis who I thought warranted surgery. He had been hospitalized for bleeding and was not responding well to medication. He also was resistant to treatment with the newer biologics. Instead, he went to Michigan where cannabis was available a year before Ohio. He was using edibles for his symptoms and improved. A repeat endoscopy showed marked improvement of his colon and, to date, he has not required surgery. (Yes, for the skeptics, he is an "n" of one. But he got my attention.)
Following the implementation of the Ohio program, I obtained my CTR which is the permission to recommend cannabis for purchase at any of the authorized dispensaries in Ohio that first opened in January 2019. During the last 6 months of my regular practice I tried to convince the hospital to set up a cannabis clinic. (That went over well!). I left practice in June of 2019 and continued to learn about cannabis and participate in the recommendation process in Ohio.
Q: Do you have any research interests or any articles or studies to share?
A: Though I have research ideas, I am not in a position to conduct cannabis research unless observational studies.
I have shared my mnemonic TRICHOME for guiding a clinician to ask more questions when reviewing a medication history.
Q: What does ACS mean to you?
A: I took the 20-hour course which I found helpful and passed the exam. The course is more extensive than some offered by others, and I do not think that is a bad thing. There is quite an overlap of presenters and courses, so content and presentation quality are important to me.
In particular, I enjoy the monthly sessions and find the membership accessible. Presently, there are quite a few options available for cannabis organization for clinicians. I think that the networking and educational aspects are important.
Frederick A. Slezak, MD, MBA, FACS, FASCRS, FACG graduated from The University of Akron (Ohio) in 1975 and attended medical school at The Ohio State University College of Medicine receiving his degree in 1978. He completed his residency in General Surgery at Akron City Hospital and a fellowship in Colon & Rectal Surgery at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois in 1984. Dr. Slezak is certified by both the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Colon & Rectal Surgery. From 1984 until June 2019, he practiced in the field of colon and rectal surgery in Akron, Ohio. He has participated in the publication of over 35 peer-reviewed articles, three book chapters, and several instructional videos.