Meet Kaitlyn Dykes, a second-year student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. A 2016 participant in the Summer Institute for Medical Students program at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Kaitlyn shares how her week on campus has forever changed her perceptions about addiction and her understanding of how to help future patients and their families. Why did you apply to the Summer Institute for Medical Students program? In my first year of medical school, I'd been introduced to a basic understanding of addiction as a chronic disease, and I saw some of the challenges and complexities of treating addiction through volunteer work at a methadone treatment center. I also knew about the disease from a personal standpoint because my family had been impacted. All of these experiences left me with more questions than answers, along with a strong desire to learn about the disease nature of addiction, the treatment and recovery processes, and the effects of addiction on the entire family system. As a future physician, what was your biggest takeaway from the experience? The whole experience was incredible, and I'm extremely grateful to Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation donors for the opportunity. It was an honor to meet patients, hear their stories, and learn about the disease of addiction from their perspectives. I was really struck by the respectful, open atmosphere at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Patients felt safe to open up about their situation, and I could see how that openness and vulnerability were essential to their healing process. In the medical setting and in society at large, there's so much stigma and misunderstanding about substance use disorders. It prevents people from getting the help they need. So one of my biggest takeaways was the importance of fostering that level of openness and trust with the patients I will be working with in order to help them overcome the silence and shame that block the healing process. How has the experience changed the way you will practice medicine in the future? The program gave me insight into how to approach conversations with patients about substance use. Medical students are taught to take a patient's history within a limited amount of time and by following checklist types of questions. This may or may not include asking one or two questions about substance use, almost as an afterthought. The haste and format of these questions encourage patients to give nondescript, checklist responses. By asking more in-depth questions and allowing patients time to reflect and answer, I can gain a much better understanding of their situation and guide them to the most helpful next steps. For example, I can learn a lot more by asking a patient why she drinks or whether anyone has expressed concern about her drinking than by simply asking how many alcoholic beverages she consumes in a week. Was there anything about your experience that was unexpected? I found myself identifying personally with a few of the stories patients shared, which brought up some difficult issues and emotions for me. Even though those moments were uncomfortable, and I'm still reflecting on some of the issues that came up, the overall effect has been empowering because it normalized my experiences and helped me appreciate the profound impact of addiction. I knew the statistics about how pervasive this disease is, but hearing patients and families speak openly about their struggles really brought everything home for me. I'm forever thankful for the experience, and as a result of it will be much better able to aid patients struggling with substance use disorder. This experience has motivated me to continue learning about the disease of addiction, increase public awareness on the topic, and take action toward breaking down stigma currently surrounding the disease. Together, we will overcome addiction. Medical and Professional Education programs—made possible through the generosity of donors—equip hundreds of students and professionals every year with the tools, knowledge, and insight to effectively address the disease of addiction. It's only because of your commitment and support that we can offer these life-changing lessons in lifesaving care. We invite you to learn more about how the power of your giving helps to advance addiction education and awareness. Please call 1-888-535-9485, email us at Giving@HazeldenBettyFord.org, or learn more by reading our Medical and Professional Education Annual Report.