Gregory Collins, M.D.
PINEHURST – A British bobby’s helmet sits atop a bookcase in the FirstHealth Behavioral Services office of Gregory Collins, M.D. – its very recognizable profile a reminder of a memorable trip to England and an even more memorable time in Dr. Collins’ career.
As team psychiatrist for the Cleveland Browns, Dr. Collins made the transatlantic trip with the professional football team nearly 30 years ago for an exhibition game that would help introduce American football to British sports fans more accustomed to bends, headers and kicks than passes, punts and carries.
Although the game, in which the Browns lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, now occupies a tucked-away spot in NFL history, the helmet has remained with Dr. Collins, recently accompanying him from Cleveland to Pinehurst and FirstHealth Behavioral Services. Here, his skills as a certified addiction psychiatrist have entered a new phase – but more in terms of location than of practice.
“Life is life wherever you go,” Dr. Collins says. “As a psychiatrist, problems come to you. I plan to help as many people as I can.”
Mary Silverman, LCSW, director of FirstHealth Behavioral Services, calls Dr. Collins a welcome addition to the FirstHealth program.
“Dr. Collins has had an unusually diverse career,” Silverman says, “but his experience in the specialty of addictions has provided a new perspective in our treatment of drug and alcohol abuse. We are very pleased to have him on our Behavioral Services team.”
In a 40-year career that began with his graduation with honors in both surgery and psychiatry from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Dr. Collins has treated enlisted men and officers, Washington lobbyists and White House attachés, congressmen and senators, business executives and athletes as well as everyday people with a variety of complaints – from PTSD to alcohol and drug addiction.
“You name it and I’ve seen it,” he says.
While the professions or the diagnoses have often been similar, Dr. Collins has kept his focus on the individual.
“Everybody’s different, and I approach patients on an individualized basis,” he says. “I’m not a one-size-fits-all person.”
Dr. Collins entered medical school set on becoming a plastic surgeon. The introduction of psychiatry during his medical school rotations and his admiration for a mentor who was a psychiatrist convinced him otherwise.
He remained at Ohio State for his residency and then entered the U.S. Navy, becoming the medical director of the Alcohol Rehabilitation Unit at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
In 1975, after leaving the Navy, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to take a faculty position at Case Western Reserve University College of Medicine, where he operated the Alcohol Rehabilitation Center at Cleveland’s Metropolitan General Hospital and became a frequent consultant to industry for the treatment of alcoholic executives.
Dr. Collins moved his growing chemical dependency practice to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in 1980, founding the clinic’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center. His association with the Cleveland Browns began shortly afterward when he co-founded the Cleveland Browns Inner Circle Drug, Alcohol and Player Development Program.
During his 17 years with the program, he achieved widespread recognition for his treatment of professional athletes. Even featured in a Newsweek magazine article, the procedures he developed eventually served as the prototype for a league-wide drug program that has since expanded its role into professional team readiness.
After the Browns left Cleveland for Baltimore and a new incarnation as the Ravens, Dr. Collins continued his role as team psychiatrist for the Cleveland Indians baseball team, where the multiple layers of major and minor league players introduced new professional challenges in terms of player immaturity, reckless spending and lack of focus. Many of the athletes, he acknowledges, would have “washed out very quickly” without therapy.
“We treated a lot of them and probably saved some lives,” he says.
When the Browns returned to Cleveland, Dr. Collins returned to the Browns, serving as the team’s drug abuse consultant.
Also a drug abuse consultant to ABC News, Dr. Collins has also been very involved with advanced biochemical research in alcoholism. He has written numerous articles and book chapters for professional publications, and has lectured widely on substance abuse and psychiatric topics.
Looking for recreational opportunities, a change in lifestyle and “better weather,” and encouraged by the FirstHealth leadership of CEO David Kilarski, whom he had known in Cleveland, Dr. Collins relocated to Pinehurst and FirstHealth last fall.
His FirstHealth Behavioral Services office is located in the Specialty Centers Building on the campus of Moore Regional Hospital at 35 Memorial Drive in Pinehurst.
“I love the hospital,” he says. “I think it’s a great hospital, and I’m honored to be a part of it. I’m very happy here already.”