Prescription for Hope

Summer Institute gives medical student an inside look at the dynamics of addiction and the process of healing

Kriti P. assumed she would be working directly with patients when she arrived at the Betty Ford Center campus in Rancho Mirage, California, to take part in the week-long Summer Institute for Medical Students. Her initial assignment to the Family Program came as a disappointment—and a blessing in disguise.

"What a life changer," Kriti shares. "Listening to families open up about how they were coping with the fear and chaos of addiction helped me realize how much I'd been keeping inside about my own family's struggles."

Unexpected tears of relief flowed when Kriti talked one-to-one with a parent in the program.

"I opened up for the first time about my ties to addiction, and I was surprised by how liberating that conversation felt," she explains. "I came to an understanding of addiction as a disease that affects the whole family. And I gained a new appreciation for the dynamics of mutual support in the healing process."

Now a third-year medical student at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey, Kriti carries many lessons learned at the Betty Ford Center into her ongoing studies and clinical work. She knows she will encounter patients who struggle with addiction, no matter the specialty or location of her future practice.

"Substance use and addiction are arguably the nation's leading health problem," she observes. "If we, as health care providers, are not prepared to recognize addiction as a disease, we won't be prepared to help our patients understand that they can successfully address and manage it."

The Summer Institute training equipped Kriti to not only recognize signs that a patient might be struggling with a substance use disorder but to discuss the situation and provide effective guidance, as well.

"These are extremely difficult conversations for physicians to have with patients, but the idea is to help the patient recognize how substance use might be affecting more than their physical health. How is it affecting their relationships? Their job? Other aspects of their life? And how ready are they to change?"

Kriti sees the physician's role as helping patients chart a course forward. "When you're in the midst of addiction, it's difficult to see a way out or know where to start," she notes. "Physicians can help pave that road for patients by discussing the options and therapies available, offer assistance in an ongoing capacity, and let patients know addiction is not something they need to battle alone."

It's an approach that challenges the more prevalent "magic pill" mind-set in today's health care marketplace.

"Patients often feel their medical concerns have not been addressed adequately if they leave their doctor's office without a prescription in hand, especially patients seeking relief for pain," Kriti observes. "The opioid addiction crisis has shown us the hazards of over-prescribing narcotic painkillers when there are so many alternative agents available to help control pain," she adds.

Sometimes, the best prescription a physician can offer a patient is a candid, compassionate conversation—and a plan for moving forward.

Recovering Hope

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"The Scaife Family Foundation is a proud and supportive partner of the Summer Institute for Medical Students, which prepares the next generation of health care providers to respond to the growing and changing needs of communities across the country."
David A. Zywiec, President, Scaife Family Foundation

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By the Numbers icon

> In 2015, 523 participants enrolled in Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's Medical and Professional Education programs, including the Summer Institute for Medical Students. The programs offer health care providers and other professionals an up-close look at the challenges of addiction and the effectiveness of treatment.

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