The 5 A's: Desert Oasis Healthcare's Successful Smoking Cessation Initiative

The 5 A's: Desert Oasis Healthcare's Successful Smoking Cessation Initiative

The combination of counseling and medication delivers better results for quitting tobacco use

Even after decades of anti-smoking messages and public service campaigns, many primary care physicians continue to report tobacco usage from their patients. This news isn’t surprising to VJ Sleight, Health Educator, who works with Desert Oasis Healthcare (DOHC) specializing in tobacco dependence. A former smoker herself, Sleight calls herself the “Queen of Quitting” because she has continually stopped smoking for at least three months, nine separate times. Even after being diagnosed with cancer, she could not stay tobacco-free. While her doctors did not suggest an association between her breast cancer and smoking, she knew that continuing to smoke would put her at high-risk for a cancer recurrence for the rest of her life. So, nine became her lucky number for quitting. 

Perhaps revealing her personal truth to her smoking cessation students helps her relate even more in addition to her education. Sleight has earned her master’s in Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine and completed her training at the Mayo Clinic as a Tobacco Treatment Specialist. Having written “How to Win at Quitting Smoking,” Sleight tells her students that she knows how easy it is to stop smoking and how difficult it is to stay quit. 

“Smokers already know how bad using tobacco is for their health,” says Sleight. “Yet, well-meaning family, friends, or doctors often nag, shame or blame a smoker, thinking it will help them to quit.” Instead, Sleight and DOHC use a method called ‘The Five A’s – Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist, and Arrange.’

The physician’s part is to Advise the patient to become smoke-free and refer for follow-up. DOHC steps in to Assist the smoker. “The most successful quit attempts combine behavioral change and medication. Our pharmacists are on hand throughout the process to evaluate for the proper medication,” said Dr. Lindsey Valenzuela, PharmD and Administrator of DOHC’s Population Health and Prescription Management (PHARxM) Department. “Our pharmacists meet independently with all patients to determine the right course of therapy and continue to manage them with dosing changes until they have the successful quit attempt throughout their journey.” 

“Starting with 43 patients in three of our primary care locations, we had 15 individuals who stuck with it and quit. Of course, we hope they stay quit but even if they don’t, we’ll be here for them if they need to go through the process all over again,” said Dr. Marc Hoffing, Medical Director of DOHC. “We encourage any of the other groups within HPN to give us a call or shoot us an email with questions about how our program works.” 

Under Sleight’s direction, DOHC offers five one-hour educational classes for patients not ready to quit, as a means of easing them into thinking about becoming smoke-free:

Your Brain on Nicotine

Benefits of Becoming Smoke-Free

Smokers Don’t Plan to Fail but Fail to Plan

How to Handle Stress Without Smoking

Creating an ICE Plan: Understanding and Preventing Relapse

Those who feel they are ready to quit can then move on to six two-hour Cessation Group Sessions:

Getting Ready to Quit

Developing a Quit Plan

Quit Week

Coping with Emotions

Stress Management

Staying Quit Forever


To watch our video on Smoking Cessation, visit