2018 Top Doctor: Lisa Stearns

Editorial StaffApril 1, 2018
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2018 Top Doctor: Lisa Stearns with therapy labrador Gringo
2018 Top Doctor: Lisa Stearns with therapy labrador Gringo

Pain Management
Med School/Year Graduated: University of Nebraska College of Medicine, 1991
Years in Practice: 22

There’s been a huge uptick in coverage of opioid over-prescription and abuse in the local and national media. As a pain management doctor, how do you see yourself working to address this epidemic?
We have had great success with group medical visits providing a whole-person approach to pain, and with education on the tools patients underuse. By understanding their pain, patients learn to be less reliant on medications, and move back into life.

Some doctors have said this country needs to revamp the ways in which we think about pain, e.g. tolerance of pain has gone down in the face of “fix-all” pills and/or surgeries. Do you agree?
Society of old was more ambulatory, ate healthier and relied on each other for support during hardship. Now, we are isolated, angry and in pain. By re-educating patients on the benefits of a simpler life in combination with newer interventional therapies, I am optimistic a revamp has already begun.

What alternative pain-management methods have you found to be the most effective for your patients? Has anything surprised you?
We use therapies that complement our practice – acupuncture, pet therapy, yoga, tai chi, music and vibratory therapy. The most effective for long-lasting relief is a multimodal approach. Complementary therapies increase parasympathetic tone and relaxation, which in turn diminishes pain.

As a young anesthesiology resident, what motivated you to pursue this field? 
I missed the recurrent patient contact in anesthesia. I also realized there was a great need for physicians with patience, compassion, empathy and technical skills. My ability to think outside the box made me a perfect candidate for pain medicine.

How has your own life – or those of your family and friends – been touched by pain? How do you take those experiences into your work?  
After watching several family members suffer from cancer, and having a life-altering knee injury at age 28, pain was a part of [my] life. I wanted to help others know that there is life after pain and, with the right mindset, life is good.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy spending time outdoors with my children, grandchildren, friends and dogs – hiking, paddle boarding, kayaking and just playing. Coming to Phoenix from the Midwest, I realized every day is a chance to get a vacation moment in!

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”  
There are so many things. I’d be an architect, teacher, designer, artist and contractor, all at once. My science self has overshadowed my artistic creative self. Had I lived in the day, I would probably have been more like the female equivalent of da Vinci.

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