One of the goals of our eAntidote blog is to introduce you to the real poison experts who answer the phones at the Maryland Poison Center (MPC), as well as our staff members. In addition to being nurses and pharmacists, they are parents, grandparents, artists, athletes, sports fans, and more! Read the Q&A below to get to know our medical directors: Drs. Josh King and Liz Hines.
Why did you go into the medical field?
Dr. King: I wanted to help people, and I’ve always been interested in bioscience. It seemed to me that pursuing a degree in medicine was the best way to scratch both of those itches at the same time.
Dr. Hines: My mom was an organic chemistry professor, so we had a lot of dinner conversations about science. In school, I enjoyed science and math classes. I went to Siena College and got my degree in biology and chemistry. I then went to medical school at Emory University School of Medicine.
How did you end up at the poison center?
Dr. King: When I was a fourth-year medical student, I signed up for a month-long toxicology rotation because it looked interesting. I had no idea what it was at the time. After graduating, I trained in internal medicine and nephrology, but toxicology was always in the back of my mind. Halfway through my nephrology training, I decided to train in medical toxicology as well. I have been fortunate enough to have a career in both nephrology and toxicology, and poison centers have been key to the latter. In addition, Maryland is my home state; I grew up here, and nearly all of my extended family is here. It’s gratifying to be able to serve my home state through my work at the MPC.
Dr. Hines: I completed my residency in pediatrics and fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins. As a fellow, I rotated at the MPC. I was introduced to toxicology, and I found my passion for pediatric poison management and prevention. I then pursued a second fellowship in medical toxicology in New York City before returning to the MPC.
What do you enjoy most about working at the poison center?
Dr. King: The fantastic group of people who work here. They’re smart and interested in what they do, and tirelessly work to help others. They also do an incredible job providing expertise that is difficult to find anywhere else, and do so for tens of thousands of people each year. It’s an honor to be a part of a group that helps so many people.
Dr. Hines: I like teaching the residents and students at case conference. My coworkers challenge me to learn and grow, as we get new and complex cases daily.
Why are poison centers and poison specialists important?
Dr. King: We live in a world where almost anyone can get access to a tremendous amount of information; what is more important (and more difficult) is being able to apply that information appropriately. The specialists in poison information (SPIs) at poison centers can access the correct information, use their expertise to apply it as well as possible, and offer guidance in language that patients and health care providers alike can understand.
Dr. Hines: We offer 24/7 service for health care providers and the public to help manage poisoning cases. Since there are so few of us with this unique knowledge, we can reach a larger population over the phone instead of physically in the hospital and doctors’ offices. In many ways, we are the original telemedicine since we have been providing poisoning help for decades.
What’s an important message you want to share about poison safety?
Dr. King: All medications can be poisons if taken in the wrong amount or by the wrong person. Although people mean well, misusing medicines can be dangerous. Read the entire label on medicines. And, don’t share prescriptions with others, especially children.
Dr. Hines: Do not store poisons such as cleaning products under the sink where children can easily get to them. These items should be kept up, away, and out of sight.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Dr. King: I enjoy spending time with my wife and young daughter, exploring Maryland and surrounding areas. We always find something new to enjoy, whether it be an outdoor activity or a local flea market. If left to my own devices, I spend entirely too much time with books.
Dr. Hines: I enjoy reading, exercising, and playing with my children. Working at the poison center and in the emergency department keeps me busy, so I like to spend as much of that free time as possible with my family and friends.