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Hersh Shroff, MD, a transplant hepatologist and assistant professor of medicine, has seen the human impact of a recent, rising trend: Severe alcohol-related liver disease with high rates of death or need for liver transplantation. The new IHEAL Clinic at Eastowne addresses this trend.

“It’s an overwhelming, scary place to be for so many individuals who have spent their lives battling shame and stigma,” said Hersh Shroff, MD, assistant professor in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the UNC School of Medicine. “Imagine struggling for months, years, or even decades with substance use and mental health and being stigmatized rather than supported. In a moment’s notice, you’re told your health is in danger, your life is on the line, and you have to make a change. Who can navigate those steps alone?”

At UNC Hospitals, the place for help is the Integrated Healthcare for Alcohol Use and Liver Disease (IHEAL) Clinic, which combines the expertise of a liver specialist with a substance use and mental health provider to treat liver disease related to alcohol use.

“We want to give patients the resources to support their physical and mental health simultaneously,” Dr. Shroff said. “We want to remove the stigma of this disease.”

The IHEAL Clinic, located in the UNC Hospitals Eastowne medical building in Chapel Hill, pairs the UNC Substance Treatment and Recovery (STAR) program with the hepatology division to make treatment easier and more accessible for patients in need. Patients who are referred to the UNC Liver Center for advanced liver disease related to alcohol are scheduled for same-day, back-to-back visits with both a liver doctor and substance abuse counselor – all in the same location.

The new patient-focused solution is the result of collaboration between several experts including Shroff, clinical supervisors Daniel Velez and Heather Gallagher of the STAR Program and nurse practitioner Lindsay Yoxheimer at the UNC Liver Center.

“It truly does take a village to heal from that place – mentally and physically,” said Dr. Shroff. “We’re working to be part of that village.”

Learn more about the IHEAL Clinic here or schedule an appointment by calling 984-974-7502.