"Of course I'm an optimist, how else do I work with addicts for 40 years?" were the words of Dr. Herbert Kleber. Dr. Kleber, born in Pittsburgh, and known for his pioneering work in the field of addiction, has been further commemorated by Google with one of their doodles.
On October 1, 1996 — 23 years ago — Dr. Kleber was elected into the prestigious National Academy of Medicine. Today, this Google doodle was created by Massachusetts-based artist, Jarrett J. Krosoczka.
Who was Dr. Kleber?
Aside from his inspirational work in the field of addiction, where Kleber worked as a physician in the research and treatment of addiction, he was an all-round celebrated human.
Kleber's widow, Anne Burlock Lawver, shared her insights about the incredible doctor, who touched many people's lives, addicts or not.
To begin with, Kleber visualized addiction not as shameful, as many others did, but as a medical problem. He wanted to help solve it through science. His life's calling and passion were devoted to his patients and his research.
Respected for his skills as a problem solver, a master negotiator, his ethical practice, generosity, and fearlessness, among other traits, he was a man of integrity who pushed the field of addiction studies forward.
Dr. Kleber's career
In 1964, as a volunteer for the United States Public Health Service, Kleber was assigned a position at Lexington prison hospital, in Kentucky. There, he worked with the many thousands of inmates who were being treated for addiction.
Kleber quickly noticed that many of these inmates would relapse once they were released from prison, so he started a new approach.
Instead of approaching the issue of addiction as a moral failure, Kleber focused on 'evidence-based treatment,' as he called it. He looked at addiction as a medical condition instead of a moral one that shamed the inmates.
By focusing on research, through the careful use of medication and therapeutic communities, Kleber helped keep his patients off the relapse road.
As his work was going so well, President George H.W. Bush appointed him Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Furthermore, Kleber initiated the move of substance abuse research and treatment into the medical field.
Kleber was able to carry out his work even further as co-founder of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. He morphed the field of addiction treatment forever into one, that requires medical assistance and research, rather than one to be ashamed of.
In his 50-year-long career, Kleber saved countless lives of addiction sufferers.