The moment Brock Libby realized he wanted to specialize in adolescent medicine came like a lightning strike.

He was in his second year of medical school at the University of Vermont, and some friends who volunteered at a center for LGBTQ youth invited him to come along.

Brock Libby

Having grown up in Skowhegan and Cornville, Libby, as a teenager, enjoyed mentoring children at a summer day camp where he was a swimming instructor, so he readily accepted the invitation.

At the LGBTQ center where youth could just drop in and talk, Libby was moved by their stories, of the struggles they endured and the judgments they faced. It was heartbreaking.

“This just really, really struck me, and I was so blown away by what I saw that I called my mother and I was like, ‘I’m going to study adolescent medicine,'” he said. “It was a huge, powerful moment for me.”

Libby, now 34, is about to move from Philadelphia, where he has completed an adolescent medicine fellowship, to Portland to work for Maine Medical Center. He will be based primarily at Maine Medical Partners South Portland Pediatrics and Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine but also will work in the gender clinic at the hospital.

Maine will be fortunate to have him. He will be among only a handful of doctors in the state who specialize in adolescent medicine, which focuses on those who are in the adolescent period of development and may experience menstrual disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse or mental illness, including depression. While Libby will focus on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, his goal is to help improve the lives of all Maine youth and young adults, he said. His hope is to eventually help expand consulting-based services to the entire state, he said.

“To provide solace and comfort to a gay or transgender teen — there’s nothing like it in the world,” he said. “If I can help improve the life of a teen for just one hour of one day, then my job is complete. It’s a big deal.”

Libby sees the whole picture. What we know from research, he says, is that being gay does not increase a person’s risk for anything.

“It’s really society’s negative reaction to them that increases the risk,” he said.

What research and data also shows is that 20- to 30-year-olds, who typically go off their parents’ health insurance during that time, are the most difficult to keep in the medical care arena, Libby said.

“What we know is, if a patient is engaged in care, even if it’s a 24-year-old male going to see a doctor once a year, there is a decreased chance for morbidity later in life,” he said.

Libby defines morbidity as illness and says keeping young people engaged in care also decreases the burden on the health care system. We learn both good and harmful behaviors during the adolescent years, and preventative medicine is critical.

Unlike that of many youth with whom he has worked, Libby’s childhood was idyllic.

“I grew up in central Maine,” he said. “I am gay and came out in high school. I was among loving and supportive people, including, and especially, my family.”

He studied hard at Skowhegan Area High School where he was an athlete and, before graduating in 2003, was recruited by University of Maine, in Orono, for his swimming prowess.

He was in the honors program there and at first thought he wanted to go to law school, but eventually decided on medicine. He attended UMaine for five years, earning two degrees, a bachelor’s in sociology and a Bachelor of Science in biology. In 2008, he headed to University of Vermont medical school, where he remained until 2012, earning a Doctor of Medicine. Then he went to University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, for his residency.

“I really, truly, had an incredible experience there … I immediately got involved in advocacy and worked a lot with LGBTQ youth and spent time in an adolescent clinic, which further solidified for me that I want to take care of teens and young adults. My passion is working with these youths and trying to make their lives better.”

Libby opted to do an additional three years of training after his residency at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He will complete that work in about a week. He recalled that four years ago, while attending a national conference, he introduced himself to Jonathan Fanburg, an adolescent provider from Maine Medical Center. Libby told him he really would love to work for Maine Medical in adolescent medicine and kept in touch with Fanburg.

“Fast forward to May 23 of 2018,” Libby said. “I went up for an interview, and I gave a lecture for the department on hormonal contraception for adolescents, had a good response and interviewed. They invited me back for a second round, and in August, I signed my contract.”

Libby is excited to be returning to Maine, which he refers to as his “North Star.” Unlike many Maine natives who attend college out of state and don’t return, Libby’s goal all along has been to come back. He attributes his love of the state to his parents, Nyla York (now married to Ricky York) and Jay Libby (whose wife is Kathryn Libby) who divorced when he was 2.5.

“I think that my parents are really incredible people, and they did an amazing job of instilling Maine pride in me,” he said. “My father is Maine pride all the way. He just really, really loves it, and he loves the quiet and the woods and the low pace. My mom really has a great deal of wanderlust. We grew up camping all over the state of Maine. Every weekend, we’d go someplace different. We also went cross-country skiing in the winter with headlamps after dark. I love the winter, and I love the snow, and I do downhill skiing as well.”

For Libby, it was a natural choice to spend his life seeking to better the lives of Mainers.

“I just grew up really loving nature and loving the state and realizing this is what I know and this is what I want for my future as well.”

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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