A Medical Career Reinvented with Addiction Studies

Spotlight on Students

Through its accredited degree programs, the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies (HBFGSAS) provides an exceptional educational experience for students. Some students have followed unique or incredibly interesting paths to reach this point in their lives. This is the first in a new series of conversations with several of these addiction counseling students.

Dr. Stephanie HedstromWith a love of travel, adventure and a strong commitment to excellence in patient care, Dr. Stephanie Hedstrom brings a wealth of diverse skills and medical experience to her role as a student in the Graduate School. Dr. Hedstrom grew up in the northern Minnesota community of Wadena and attended college in St. Louis, Missouri, for pre-med and completed her undergraduate degree with a Spanish major. Following graduation, she moved to Colombia, South America, for a year, and through a Fulbright Scholarship, she worked with a team to provide basic health care to rural outpost communities in the region.

She returned to the U.S. and was accepted into the University of Minnesota Medical School. Between her third and fourth year in the program, and through the encouragement of a professor who was a recognized expert on rheumatic fever and active in the World Health Organization, she returned to South America and spent a year in Chile, living at the house of another researcher and completing requirements for some of her medical courses. She completed her residency and a fellowship in high-risk obstetrics at the University of Texas in Houston and went into private practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Recognizing the signs of addiction in her own life resulted in a dramatic career change. She was tired of the endless hours and lifestyle of her profession, and during treatment at Springbrook, she was encouraged by a graduate of HBFGSAS to consider pursuing her degree in addiction studies. It took five years to close down her practice and in August 2014, Stephanie moved back to Minnesota to take care of her ailing mother. At the same time she started classes at the Graduate School in May 2015, she received a request from the Abbott-Northwestern obstetrics hospital in the Allina Health system to work seven 12-hour shifts per month taking care of high-risk patients. This allows her to attend school and work on the weekends.

A voracious reader, Dr. Hedstrom actively pursues a healthy lifestyle focused on balance—mind, body and spirit. She is an advocate of Ayurveda medicine and incorporates yoga and walking outdoors into her daily routine. And she is enjoying the coursework at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School.

"The professors are approachable and seem invested in the success of each student, and I love that my class is about five-to-six individuals and we are really close," said Dr. Hedstrom. "The fact that we can experience working on the units and then bring back that information and lessons learned firsthand to the classroom is very positive."

Initially, Dr. Hedstrom was focused on pursuing the LPCC degree and working with co-occurring disorders. However, her aspirational goals have shifted as she has moved further into the program.

"My dream would be to incorporate obstetrics, women's health and addiction into my future work," said Dr. Hedstrom. "There is the huge issue of opioid and heroin use in communities across our nation which is resulting in newborns going through withdrawal. Or another interesting aspect may be working with women in the middle stages of life. Addiction impacts women differently as they age, and working with older adults to cultivate a sober lifestyle seems to be a rewarding career option."

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