Meet Kyle Henneke, a registered nurse, master's of public health candidate and second-year medical student at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. A 2019 participant in the Summer Institute for Medical Students (SIMS) program at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Kyle shares how his week spent interacting with patients and clinicians at the Hazelden Betty Ford treatment center in Center City, Minnesota, informed his understanding of the disease nature of addiction and how to best help future patients and their families. Why did you apply to the SIMS program? In my work as an emergency room nurse in Montgomery County, Ohio—a community that's been at the epicenter of the nation's opioid epidemic—there were times when I was involved in resuscitating multiple individuals from opioid overdose during a single shift. Fortunately, the situation is beginning to improve, but even if we stem the tide of the opioid epidemic, substance use remains a contributing factor in many other medical conditions and the problem of addiction remains a public health crisis. I'm still undecided about the medical specialty I will pursue, but I saw the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of addiction medicine at Hazelden Betty Ford as integral to my medical training across the board. How has the experience changed the way you will practice medicine? Knowing that addiction is a complicating factor that raises the acuity of other illnesses and medical conditions, I will "triage" my patient caseload accordingly. For example, a patient who comes in with arm or back pain wouldn't appear to be a case of high acuity. But if I see that his chart includes a history of problematic substance use, I will intervene differently knowing the increased potential for a more complicated situation. I also have a heightened awareness about the importance of building rapport with my patients. As an emergency room nurse, I've had the experience of literally bringing somebody back from the brink of death. With addiction, no matter the substance—opioids, alcohol, methamphetamine—the patient is not only medically critical, there are psychological and emotional components as well. I know how to handle people medically, that's my comfort zone. It's the conversation that needs to happen after they're medically stable that can be challenging for clinicians—the conversation about how substance use is affecting the patient's physical health and other aspects of their life, and sensing their readiness to talk or even change. Was there anything about your experience that was unexpected? The patient experience was very eye-opening for me. I was assigned to a men's treatment unit that provided focused care for health care and legal professionals. As a society, we tend to look down on people who struggle with addiction. It's not seen as a disease. And we don't really think of success and addiction going hand-in-hand. Hearing about the challenges of addiction from a group of highly educated, extremely successful men underscored the reality that this disease can happen to anyone. I could relate to their driven, Type-A personalities—and I have addiction in my family history—so the risks are very real for me. The experience made me even more hypervigilant about the importance of self-care as a medical professional. On another personal note, the program gave me a tremendous sense of closure. I lost a loved one to drug overdose after years of multiple substance and alcohol use. Many of my childhood memories didn't make sense until I learned more about the progression of the disease and the process of withdrawal during my week at Hazelden Betty Ford. What I know now is that my loved one did try to get well but couldn't—the symptoms my family thought were caused by a seizure disorder were actually the effects of drug withdrawal. I can't help but wonder whether my family member would be alive today if even one of the physicians providing her care had gone through Hazelden Betty Ford's program and recognized the warning signs.