By Kendall Rainer and Autumn Bippert
[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]
Ben McCauley has always had a desire to help people.
He found his calling when he came up with the idea to open Lubbock’s first Ketamine clinic after 15 years in medicine.
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that is being used to help treat depression, anxiety, PTSD and chronic pain. It is an alternative to traditional therapies and is a safe alternative to other treatments such as surgery and electroshock therapy.
Beginning the clinic was a good fit for McCauley because it was within healthcare, as he had worked in the healthcare industry for a long time.
“I was able to network a lot of relationships in order to start this,” McCauley explains. “My history in healthcare and my history in working in healthcare and my relationships helped me get it going.”
He said that he’s passionate about his work because it has the potential to really change people’s experiences with their depression.
McCauley said he began to become interested in mental health and Ketamine after looking into research that was coming out regarding the drug.
“I was looking at it and going, ‘Man, this is great; this is a great thing for people,’” McCauley said. “We need to have this. It needs to be a part of people’s care.”
McCauley explained that he had a family member that he thought would benefit from Ketamine infusions. However, there weren’t any Ketamine clinics in Lubbock.
“There’s a Ketamine clinic in every major city all over the country,” McCauley added. “So I said, let’s try to start one.”
He opened his clinic, Denovo Therapy Lubbock, in June of 2019.
However, he said that at the beginning of the project, he did not know if the clinic was going to work.
“So the thing about healthcare is that you get to feel like you’re making an impact for people,” McCauley said. “The thing about being able to run this clinic is that I get to be an even bigger part of that by facilitating people’s wellness.”
“We (the clinic) have a mental health and pain focus,” he added. “A lot of these diseases are debilitating for people. And so it’s meaningful for me to give someone who’s tried everything else an opportunity to get better,”
Trials have shown that 70 percent of depression patients respond to the first Ketamine treatment. The effects of the treatment can last anywhere from a few days to weeks. The therapy duration is three weeks, with a total of six infusions that last an hour, of low-dose Ketamine.
The low dose is “subanesthetic.” Ketamine was developed more than 50 years ago for anesthesia during surgery, and has been used as an anesthetic for minor surgeries. It also has been used in veterinary medicine, as it has similar effects on animals. Subanesthetic dosing is considered less than 0.8-1mg/kg during 40 minutes to one hour. This is compared to anesthetic dosing of Ketamine, which is typically considered to be 2mg/kg given all at once.
The risks of using Ketamine is low because the dose used for the treatment is very low and safe. During Ketamine treatments, blood pressure and heart rate may increase, but they are monitored to ensure no complications. Conditions such as uncontrolled blood pressure, unstable heart disease, untreated thyroid disease, active substance abuse, manic phases of bipolar disorder, or active psychotic (hallucinogenic) symptoms, may make the Ketamine doses dangerous or ineffective.
McCauley first attended South Plains College in 1999. He later received his EMT certificate in 2002. McCauley periodically returned to SPC to assist in his degrees at Texas Tech University from 2002-2014. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Spanish, with a minor in Chemistry, from Texas Tech.
McCauley said that his favorite memories of SPC is the time he spent in the Science Building and getting to know a lot of people around campus just after a semester.
“A lot of the admin staff you would see every day and every time you were there,” McCauley recalls. “Even the professors recognize your face. So it was kind of like a small community, and people would say “hi” to you. That’s what I liked.”
McCauley grew up in Lubbock and graduated from Monterey High School.
His EMT certificate helped him get into the medical industry. He started working at a local hospital and has continued to work there for more than 15 years.
“I knew as a young person that I wanted to be in healthcare,” said McCauley. “That was an executable way for me to get started.”
McCauley said that South Plains College helped him get his start in the medical field. He explained that he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after getting his start in the field.
“I worked in and out of the hospital basically since then (after getting his EMT certificate),” McCauley explained. “I tried to leave the hospital a few times in my life to go do other things, just to find out that it wasn’t the right thing for me. That was a hard lesson to learn, that healthcare is my jam, and that in order to be successful, I need to stay within my wheelhouse.”
McCauley added that whenever he was looking for growth opportunities and career perspective, he went back to SPC again.
McCauley considers having a wife and three children, as well as opening and owning his own business, as some of his greatest accomplishments.
McCauley said, “I want to be a net positive change for my community.”
For more information you can visit his website at http://www.denovotherapy.com.