In Practice: Elizabeth Stephens, M.D.

Elizabeth Stephens, M.D., FACP

Providence profiles Elizabeth Stephens, M.D., FACP, an endocrinologist with Providence Providence Medical Group-Northeast and medical director of Providence Diabetes Education.

Past lives
Medical degree, Vanderbilt University; internship and residency, Oregon Health & Science University; fellowship in endocrine medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; published in more than 14 peer-reviewed journals; worked as seventh-grade science teacher

What are some promising developments in treating diabetes?
There is so much going on in technology, especially in sensors, which can monitor subcutaneous glucose levels every five minutes. This has been hugely helpful for finding patterns and increasing safety for those with hypoglycemia, since the devices will set off an alarm for high and low glucose levels.

In the future, pumps will be available that can turn off insulin delivery for low glucose levels. We are getting closer to an artificial pancreas.

Is there a secret to getting patients to comply with their treatment?
Everyone’s needs are so different. I try to identify what goals my patients want to achieve, and how better health will help get them there. I also hang in there with people. It can take a long time to improve diabetes control, but it always amazes me how many are able to do it and how much better they feel.

Why did you choose endocrinology?
I have had Type 1 diabetes since my third year of medical school, so I developed an interest in the field. In my second year of internal medicine training, I remember hearing some of the residents talking about “those diabetics,” which really seemed to miss the challenges of living with this disease day in and out. It is relentless. I realized then that my personal experience with diabetes, as well as my compassion for those who struggle with it, made endocrinology a good career fit.

How do you spend your spare time?
I have two boys, ages 5 and 8, who keep me very busy. We love to ride bikes, be outdoors and swim, so there’s not much down time. My husband and I also like to play music (I sing) and I love to read.

What music do you listen to?
Lots of Green Day, which my 8-year-old drummer son loves. I also really like Calexico, Iron and Wine, Patty Griffin, Laura Marling, Sara Watkins … the list goes on.

What are you looking forward to?
In the fall I’ll be attending the The Foundation for Medical Excellence’s terrific Physician Well-Being Conference. I hope other docs get there too, since burnout is so prevalent in our fast-paced world. I direct the wellness program for our residents, and also attend a mindfulness group for physicians once a month. These practices have had a huge effect on my outlook and well-being.

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