From cowboy to cannabis: Doctor opens first pot clinic
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — The doctor who opened the first medical marijuana clinic in Lafayette is anything but ordinary.
Chad Rossitter started out as a nurse, not a physician.
Before that, he was a cowboy.
“I used to ride bulls,” Rossitter said. “That’s how I put myself through college, with the money I won.”
Rossitter said he suffered a broken cheek bone, cracked ribs and other injuries from those days. But nothing seems to have slowed him down.
He and his wife Isabella recently opened Total Health Clinic (THC) on Guilbeau Road in Lafayette. It is the first clinic dedicated to serving patients who may benefit from the use of medical marijuana. The clinic does not supply the drug to patients. Rossitter and his staff evaluate patients and assess whether they qualify for the medication.
“We don’t give out marijuana here,” Rossitter said. “We will work to identify those who may be able to use it to treat a number of ailments. Our goal is to demystify and bring understanding to non-addictive, non-opioid treatment options.”
After they receive a referral, patients can fill the order at a pharmacy licensed to dispense the medications. In this case, there is one located next door to the clinic. Medical marijuana is not currently for sale in the city, however.
Rossitter’s journey from cowboy to pot doctor is a long one. He has been a registered trauma nurse and a travel intensive care nurse. He went on to complete medical school and become a nephrologist, then accepted a residency in internal medicine. Nephrology is the branch of medicine that deals with diseases of the kidneys.
Rossitter was named intern of the year during his first year in residency and became chief resident of the Internal Medicine program at LSU. Awarded a fellowship at Houston Methodist Hospital, he completed his training in nephrology and interventional nephrology. He began practicing in the Opelousas and Lafayette areas, eventually starting his own practice, the Nephrology Center of Excellence, with locations in Sunset, Eunice and Opelousas. The clinics treat kidney patients and those who need dialysis.
It was through his experience treating patients with kidney-related problems that Rossitter became interested in how medical marijuana could help.
“I have patients who are on dialysis and are unable to eat,” he said. “They are wasting away. They suffer from poor nutrition; they lose their appetite. So we have to prescribe meds to get them back to eating. But these drugs are often high-priced and have side effects. So when I heard it (medical marijuana) was legal in Louisiana, I jumped all over it. I think it’s good we have another tool. This gives them hope when many have exhausted almost every option.”
Rossitter said he believes the stigma is one thing many have to overcome. The long list of ailments the medication could help includes HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, glaucoma and post traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.
Rossitter, 38, does not operate alone. His wife Isabella, 23, is the office manager for Total Health Clinic. The two met when her grandfather was a kidney patient in need of a transplant. She accompanied her grandfather on one of his visits to his doctor, who happened to be Rossitter.
“It was love at first sight,” Isabella said. “He was just fun and adventurous. Our second date was skydiving. It was on my bucket list.”
The couple have been married two years now and are building two more clinics in Lake Charles and Shreveport.
They just finished a television commercial, which can be seen on the THC website. In it, Isabella Rossitter touts the benefits of being able to get medical marijuana prescribed by a licensed doctor.
Chad Rossitter enters later, dressed in a black cowboy hat, scrubs and boots.
“You’ll never see me without cowboy boots on,” he said.
Isabella said the pair are hoping to erase the stigma and misinformation associated with medical cannabis.
“People are not educated on it,” she said. “They don’t know how helpful it is. For people with debilitating conditions, it’s a great alternative treatment.”
But the Rossitters aren’t stopping at the clinic. They also plan to open a medical spa that will provide cosmetic treatments like Botox, CoolSculpting and laser therapy.
“I’m very excited about that,” Isabella said. “I love all of that stuff. I’m working on becoming an esthetician. I want to do more than run it. I want to also provide (services).”
The couple said they see the medical marijuana referral clinic as just one of many to come. Although both say they have never tried the drug (recreational or medical), they do see it as at least one remedy for the current opioid crisis.
“No one ever (overdosed) on pot, ever.” Rossitter said. “It is impossible. Yet, 115 people a day OD on opioids. Many patients want to get off of them. Some are terminal and they’ve exhausted every other option.”
Information from: The Advertiser, http://www.theadvertiser.com