Reid names Rhoads award winner


RICHMOND, Ind. — To understand who Erika Brandenstein, MD, is as a person and a physician, you need to hear the story of how she became involved in the creation of The NEST, a maternal treatment program.

The number of babies born to mothers who were misusing substances was on the rise, and as an OB/GYN, Dr. Brandenstein felt powerless to change the situation. So, one day, she went into a patient’s room and sat down on the bed next to her.

“I wanted her to tell me her story. How did she get here? What were her hopes, dreams, plans? How did she feel about having a baby?” Dr. Brandenstein said.

“What I discovered was these women are not different than any other women. They have the same aspirations for their future. These mothers loved and wanted their babies, and the main thing standing in their way was their addiction. They hoped for something better.”

From there, Dr. Brandenstein began to research what it takes to overcome addiction. She found a complex set of factors to consider, particularly for those who are pregnant. They need medical care, socio-economic support, counseling, therapy, and more.

She pushed for the creation of a program tailored to meet those needs and help moms-to-be turn their lives around. She took a course on how to prescribe medications to treat opioid withdrawal and addiction.

“Because Reid is so great and wonderful, they just decided they were going to go for it. They joined with Meridian Health Services, and it happened,” Dr. Brandenstein said.

“We came up with a wonderful, beautiful environment women can be proud of where they can come in and get prenatal care. They can get medications there. We have a psychiatrist. We have a counselor. We have group therapy. There’s a kitchen there where they can come cook if they want to. There are toys for their kids to play with when they bring their family. There’s a little nursery. We try to make it like a home environment. When a woman walks through the door, if she has decided she is ready for change, we have all the resources there to help them do it.”

It’s that desire to help others, to live a life of faith and service, to study the world around her that led Dr. Brandenstein to become the 43rd recipient of the Paul S. Rhoads Humanity in Medicine Award.

“Dr. Brandenstein is deserving of this award because of her leadership, because of her creativity, because of her ability to create a new niche for services that wasn’t there before,” said Craig Kinyon, Reid Health President/CEO. “Those things are what brings forward candidates for this prestigious recognition.”

Named after its first honoree in 1983 – the late Paul S. Rhoads, MD – the Humanity in Medicine Award honors the memory of Dr. Rhoads for his service to patients and medicine. He was the founding director of Reid Health’s Medical Education Department and helped organize the hospice program and the Wayne County adult clinic for the indigent.

“I’m so humbled and honored and just surprised at being chosen for this award,” Dr. Brandenstein said. “I’ve always looked up to a lot of the physicians who have won it in the past. I’ve admired them and their commitment to the community. I’ve really strived for that, to be fully invested in Richmond.”

Her colleagues say Dr. Brandenstein has a unique ability to connect with her patients. “When I think about what a doctor should be, she exemplifies it to a T,” said Sunny Thompson, MA. “She puts her patients first. She’s very caring, understanding, non-judgmental, a religious woman, and she leads by example. She’s just a great doctor and person. Our patients are willing to wait for her if they have to because they want to see her. They know she’s in the top tier of doctors.”

“She really sits down and takes the time to listen,” said Chasity Miller, RN. “She doesn’t care how many patients are lined up. She still takes her time with each one of them. They know she’s not going to rush in and rush out just because she’s busy. She’s going to sit down and listen to everything they have to say.

“I tell you this whole community loves Dr. Brandenstein.”

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