An Interview with Dr. Craig Franke
“My ideal day consists of seeing hope in others,” says Dr. Craig Franke, medical director at Promises Austin. “That’s all I need. I gladly accept more.”
Born in Uvalde, Texas, as the youngest of three siblings, Dr. Franke lived in Leakey as a child before moving to Houston with his mother. He went to grade school and graduated high school in the small community of College Station. “In high school, I chose to pursue medicine as a result of my experiences with cancer in my family,” says Dr. Franke. “While in college I studied biology for the same reason but also chose psychology to better understand the human condition.”
He went to Texas A&M University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with a minor in biology. Recruited to attend medical school while still in graduate school, Dr. Franke went to medical school at University of Texas in Galveston. After earning his doctorate there, he completed his internship and residency in psychiatry at Texas A&M University Health Center/Scott & White in Temple, Texas. After that, Dr. Franke did fellowship training in addiction psychiatry at the University of South Florida and moonlighted as an emergency (ER) provider at James A. Haley VA in Tampa, Florida.
The Road to Promises Austin
Dr. Franke returned to Texas to be with family and joined the Scott White Healthcare System (now Baylor Scott & White) as a senior staff psychiatrist, ultimately becoming the medical director for all their addiction services.
During and since his tenure there, Dr. Franke held an active outside position with Texas A&M University as an assistant professor, teaching residents and students. He also served on the physician advocacy committee through Scott & White, intervening on behalf of the organization and before involvement of the Texas Medical Board. Dr. Franke adds that “it was a big honor to be able to serve on that committee.”
Dr. Franke eventually started his own company and later served as medical director for a 200-bed treatment center with a 40-bed medically supervised detox unit. He joined Promises Austin as medical director in 2012, then returned to academia for about a year and came back to Promises Austin as medical director in July 2014.
Understanding Addiction as a Disease
Talking about his day-to-day responsibilities as Promises Austin’s medical director is an exercise in complexity. Dr. Franke is involved in so many different aspects of the treatment facility that it’s hard to find an area where he’s not right in the mix of things, either with direct responsibility or working with other staff as part of a hands-on team.
Dr. Franke is greatly involved with patients, providing direct care, doing all the history, physicals and evaluations to determine their psychiatric and medical suitability to enter the facility, making recommendations for patients, and continuing to oversee their medical and psychiatric care while they’re in treatment.
“I feel a need, first and foremost, to try to understand the phenomenon of addiction as 100 percent a disease,” says Dr. Franke. “Unfortunately a disease carries with it a tremendous amount of social consequences. A lay person, indeed a professional, often blurs lines and confuses it and, in doing so, they forget that they’re dealing with a disease.”
Dr. Franke first deals with biological instability, so as to help ensure the likelihood of treatment success. This involves culling research to find evidence-based practices that really meet the underlying physiology. Dr. Franke says he has seen all too often that physicians and other providers lack the fundamental biological understanding.
“They just treat symptoms and patients come along with multiple medications which are really creating problems themselves,” he relates. But there is, he says, a better way. “If you really target the underlying illness, you do more with less because all those other symptoms are relieved once you address the illness.”
Dr. Franke has treated people from all walks of life. “They’ve made me realize that we’re all the same,” he asserts. “I want to be patient with them. I want them to learn to be patient with themselves. More importantly, I want to see the person apart from the illness.”
What Really Drives Him
In addition to his passion for his work, Dr. Franke loves music, the outdoors, mountain biking, running and going to the gym. He prioritizes his family and friends. His brother and sister both reside in Texas, and he has a young daughter and a teenage son, both of whom he adores.
“This line of work has really taught me how important that is,” Dr. Franke emphasizes. “It has made it really obvious to me just how important every tiny moment is every day.”