Meet Joel Soma, MD, a third-year resident with the University of Minnesota Medical School's St. Joseph's Family Medicine Residency Program. As a 2020 participant in Hazelden Betty Ford's Professionals in Residence program in Center City, Minnesota, Joel joined other physicians for an immersive, insider's view into evidence-based addiction treatment and recovery practices. As a physician, what was your biggest takeaway from the experience? My medical school studies covered the science of substance use disorders and psychosocial dimensions of the disease so I knew, for example, the types of information that might be asked on a test and basic pharmacological treatment of substance use disorders. Spending time with patients at Hazelden Betty Ford was an entirely different learning experience. The men in my assigned group came from different walks of life, but they connected in a real and meaningful way that made a lasting impression on me. They learned from one another and leaned on one another, and to me, that human connection seemed to be a differentiator in their healing process. How has the experience changed the way you practice medicine? I have a greater appreciation for the patient's perspective. The recovery process often begins in a place of vulnerability. My ability to foster a trusting doctor-patient relationship really matters. To encourage that bond and trust with patients, I try to half-remove my "doctor's hat" and come at things from a more personal perspective. That involves sitting down with the patient, putting the computer screen aside and just talking for a while to understand what's going on in the patient's life. Was there anything about your experience that was unexpected? A moment from my first day stands out. I had just arrived as a group session was ending. One of the men picked up a guitar and started singing. There was a solemn but excited hush in the room as he played and sang and—basically—poured his heart out. Turns out he was completing treatment that day and wanted to let the other guys know how much they all meant to him. The group was thrilled for him to move on but sad to see him leave. They had formed such a tight bond in a relatively short time. It was intense and incredibly moving. That was my introduction to treatment. What does the world need to know about addiction and recovery? I think it's human nature to put people into boxes and simply label someone as an "addict" or an "alcoholic" as if that's the sum and essence of who they are and who they will ever be. My time alongside patients at Hazelden Betty Ford stripped away those labels for me and revealed the person behind the disease.