Rod Hanners, CEO of Keck Medicine of USC, talks with Dr. Brian P. Lee about our treatment therapies for alcohol-related liver disease.
“Conversations with Rod” is a video series featuring Rod Hanners, CEO of Keck Medicine of USC, talking with our doctors about our innovative medical care and research. In this video, Hanners sat down with Brian P. Lee, MD, a transplant hepatology specialist, to discuss our patient-centered approach to the treatment and care of alcohol-related liver disease. Watch the full video below — or read excerpts from their conversation.
Many people are under a tremendous amount of stress, and some may turn to alcohol to cope. What can you tell us about alcohol-related liver conditions?
Brian P. Lee, MD: Alcohol-associated liver disease has been increasing for decades now but especially so during COVID. Between 2019 and 2020, alcohol-related deaths went up 25%. To give you more numbers, alcohol is also the third leading cause of preventable death. 15 million Americans have alcohol-use disorder, and 2 million have cirrhosis, which is end-stage liver disease. In medicine and liver transplant, half of liver-related deaths are due to alcohol. And alcohol is now the leading cause of liver transplant. So, we’re seeing this more and more, especially in young adults and women. To see 20-year-old women come in with liver failure from alcohol, it’s very, very unsettling.
What are the initiatives that you’re working on to prevent and treat alcohol-related liver disease?
BPL: Alcohol-use disorder is such a complex disease. It’s really important to step back and understand that alcohol-use disorder is a disease that affects the brain, which then affects the liver, as well as the heart and pancreas. It also increases your risk of stroke and cancer. It’s very much this complex, multisystem disease. At Keck Medicine, for example, we’re very well-suited to treat patients with alcohol-use disorder and liver disease, because we have such a breadth of experience and expertise.
Something that I’m very excited about at Keck Medicine is that we’re trying to meet the patient where their needs are, which is really this holistic, multidisciplinary, patient-centered approach. We’re trying to establish the USC Multidisciplinary TRAIL Clinic, which stands for transplant and alcohol-integrated liver clinic.
What is your overall approach to patient care?
BPL: These patients come from all different walks of life, and they have different levels of complexity. I think the most important thing in your approach is to try to find understanding and try to find that empathy. That’s the most important thing — actually taking the time to try to get to know your patient, to see where they align in all these different kinds of levels, so you can try to work together. In the end, you certainly have a common goal, but to get there will be different, patient by patient.