Matt Evans, MD, taking his kids for a bike ride
Matt Evans, MD, taking his kids for a bike ride

Alumni Profile: Matt Evans, MD

Chase Congleton
Chase Congleton
Matt Evans, MD, taking his kids for a bike ride
Matt Evans, MD, taking his kids for a bike ride
Class of 2013 alumnus shifted focus to treat patients with substance use disorder

Catching Up with Dr. Evans

Matt Evans, MD, graduated from the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix in 2013 and matched into family medicine residency at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

After finishing residency in 2016, he started his family medicine practice in Salem, Oregon, and later moved to Prescott, Arizona. Dr. Evans then shifted his focus into addiction medicine, completing a fellowship in the Valley.

He serves as the medical director of substance use disorder services at Valle del Sol and lives in Phoenix with his wife and children.

Life as an MD

What initiated your interest in substance use disorder treatment?

Dr. Evans on a hike with his family
Dr. Evans on a hike with his family
I have always been a little bit of a fan of the underdog, and a close loved one of mine struggled from substance use disorder most of my life. That was probably one of the biggest reasons. The first time that loved one got any care or support was when they were incarcerated. There’s so much stigma against people who use drugs that it is difficult to treat their symptoms, whether they’re self-medicating or not. I think they need support, as opposed to just putting them in prison.

What lessons have you learned in your career? And is there any advice you can give to our current medical students?

I chose family medicine because I wanted to go into a field where you can do a lot of different things. In family medicine, you can do primary care, addiction medicine, public health, run a residency program and many other things. Choosing a specialty that doesn’t narrow you into doing only one job for the rest of your life is something I’d recommend.

What helped you stand out as a residency candidate?

I think what helped me stand out is knowing myself and talking openly about my goals and aspirations. If you're trying to fit yourself inside of a box that makes you the best possible candidate, then you may be advertising yourself in a way that isn't genuine. So, "be yourself" isn't just some trite and meaningless phrase; it's a mantra to repeat to yourself so you end up working in a role that aligns with your values and gives you meaning.

Which aspects of your medical training prepared you well for residency? Were you able to hit the ground running?

I think the aspect of my training at the college that prepared me well for residency was adaptability. Training at the college in its early days was a special experience. Since it was a new medical school, some of the clinical rotations were not yet "hand-tailored" to perfection. This made me an even better resident, because sometimes to give the patient the best care possible, you must be adaptable.

Working with people who use drugs to lead a better life also can involve jumping into the lake of chaos to help them navigate uncharted waters of trauma and despair. Expecting perfection in substance use disorder patients right out of the gate is a recipe for burnout. Making sure patients understand that you'll walk with them through the chaos no matter what happens can lead to a sense of trust and support they haven't ever experienced before in their lives. Being adaptable was not only a good skill to excel in residency, but also in my career and in life.

What are some things you learned in medical school that have benefitted you the most in your career as a physician?

Dr. Evans and family at his Commencement in 2013
Dr. Evans and family at his Commencement in 2013
Marícela Moffitt, MD, MPH, taught us how to emotionally connect with people. When you get busy, and your job is becoming a little bit monotonous and robotic, take that extra time and emotionally connect with people, especially people who are suffering from addiction. Being able to connect with somebody on a person-to-person emotional level not only helps them, but also it helps you. If you’re able to make that difference or connection with somebody, then you’re going to have more sustainability to your job.

What do you miss the most about the College of Medicine – Phoenix?

Luckily, I keep in contact with the friends I went to medical school with. What I miss the most is being around all those awesome people that I got to spend a lot of time with. Some of the best friendships I have and some of the coolest experiences I remember come from my time in medical school.

About the College

Founded in 2007, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix inspires and trains exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders to optimize health and health care in Arizona and beyond. By cultivating collaborative research locally and globally, the college accelerates discovery in a number of critical areas — including cancer, stroke, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular disease. Championed as a student-centric campus, the college has graduated 669 physicians, all of whom received exceptional training from nine clinical partners and more than 2,600 diverse faculty members. As the anchor to the Phoenix Bioscience Core, which is projected to have an economic impact of $3.1 billion by 2025, the college prides itself on engaging with the community, fostering education, inclusion, access and advocacy.