Imagine a day when all doctors are equipped with the basic knowledge and experience to address substance use disorders in a non-stigmatized way, with an informed appreciation for the complexity of the disease and the recovery process, as well as their role in preventing this common health issue. We say "imagine" because, sadly, that's not the reality today. "We may cover addiction briefly in biochemistry. Some institutions may even have a course on tobacco dependence, but we come nowhere close to being prepared enough to address addiction with our patients when we graduate from medical school," said Kelly Thibert, DO, MPH, National President of the American Medical Student Association, who was among the speakers at an important and promising event in which we participated Oct. 25 at the White House. The message was similar from Christen Johnson, President of the Student National Medical Association, who added this point: "When thrust in to the world of real medicine, we're also faced with bias by substance, socioeconomic status and race of patients." "The need for change is evident in the curriculum," she continued, "but until the culture of medicine changes and opportunities are created to make socially conscious and culturally competent attending physicians, medical students will remain a product of their environment and will not be clinically excellent in treating addiction in America." To some, it may be startling to hear that one of the nation's biggest public health problems continues to be marginalized by the mainstream medical field, starting with a lack of robust education on the topic in medical school. However, to those of us who work in the specialized industry of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery, this is a longstanding issue. In fact, it has been on our field's radar since long before we were born. While we're proud of the work we do at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation—the nation's largest nonprofit provider of addiction treatment and recovery resources— we also recognize that the scope of the problem demands the weight of the entire healthcare field be brought to bear against it. As such, we've been raising the issue for decades and doing our part to provide medical education on addiction wherever we can. That's why we were so pleased to participate in the recent symposium hosted by the White House Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP), along with our colleague Joe Lee, MD, Medical Director for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's Youth Continuum. Medicine Responds to Addiction II was the sequel to an event held in September 2015 and brought together about 80 industry leaders, including medical school deans, associate deans, licensing and certification board representatives, and key partners and leaders in both the public and private sectors—all there to discuss advancing the education and practice of addiction medicine. Dr. Lee was among an esteemed group of speakers, which included ONDCP Director Michael Botticelli; George Koob, PhD, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); Nora Volkow, MD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); Kana Enomoto, Principal Deputy Administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); and several other notable leaders. The Time is Now to Address Years of Neglect "Our country's prescription drug epidemic has been one tragic catalyst for our gathering here," Dr. Lee said. "While much has been discussed about the causal factors behind the crisis, one critical cause is often left out: the decades-long and consistent marginalization of mental health and substance-related issues in our country. Put another way, aren't we now paying the price for years of neglecting the fiscal and educational investments required to confront those most stigmatized of conditions?" Indeed, according to a 2012 report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, medical schools devote only a few hours over four years to teaching addiction medicine. Meanwhile, the current heroin and prescription opioid epidemic—driven largely by overprescribing—claims thousands of lives every year, including 29,000 in 2014. Many thousands more die annually from other substance-related causes. Despite years of advocates calling for expanded medical education on addiction, the issue has proven a difficult one to move forward. Competition for curriculum time is great, and university independence guarded. Stigma plays a role too, with addiction care and the people who need it sometimes seen as difficult, complex, time-consuming, and—though it's rarely said or acknowledged out loud—less worthy of time, energy and investment (due to the old vice v. disease debate). Education, it seems, is the answer to both what we need and how to get there. "Many who train in medicine are exposed only to the most stigmatizing aspects of addiction, drug-seeking behaviors, difficult patients in the ER, overdoses, and end-stage disease states," Dr. Lee said. "But with the right education, they see these same patients through the lens of humanism," he continued. "They witness the spirit of redemption in these individuals and recall their capacity to empathize with the most human and ubiquitous of diseases. They remember why they signed up to be healers, and develop the ability to love those they care for by looking past their stereotypic intuitions. What a healthcare system we would have if we fully developed this capacity in all of our clinicians."