Meet Nicole Pantle, a second-year student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. A 2017 participant in the Summer Institute for Medical Students program at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Nicole shares how her week shadowing clinicians and patients at Hazelden in Center City, Minnesota, 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? I decided to apply after receiving an email regarding possible summer opportunities to take part in after my first year of school. I have always held a heightened interest in learning about addiction which probably stems from some of my own family members' misfortunes. In medical school, we unfortunately have limited exposure to addiction medicine. Addiction is something that, as a future physician, I will experience regardless of the field I choose, though. I wanted to broaden my perspective of the disease and learn how to provide not only my patients, but anyone I encounter, the resources to help ensure a safe road to recovery. As a future physician, what was your biggest takeaway from the experience? I discovered how crucial it is to provide a safe environment for my patients. Unfortunately, there is often a stigma associated with addiction, and most individuals don't seek help due to the shame or embarrassment that gets attached to it. These people are human though; they have families, they are parents, they have careers. They are extremely vulnerable, and I learned that it is absolutely necessary to build a trusting relationship in order to facilitate this healing process. How has the program changed the way you will practice medicine in the future? I now feel more confident in identifying addictive behaviors and implementing the necessary steps to help my future patients. I feel more comfortable having these difficult conversations and will hopefully be able to help in any way possible, even if it is minor. I will practice active listening and provide the needed space in order for my patients to overcome this disease. Was there anything about your experience that was unexpected? I wasn't expecting to learn as much as I did about myself. I learned that I'm no exception to this disease. Addiction, unfortunately, affects anyone it can get its hands on. It consumes a person's entire life and immerses one into a world of darkness. This realization struck me as I listened to a discussion among health care professionals who were patients at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. I assume none of them entered medical school thinking they would end up as an anesthesiologist, for example, addicted to opioids. This initially frightened me, but it ultimately opened my eyes and provided me with a greater acceptance of everyone affected by this disease. When I returned to school, I wanted to share my newly gained knowledge so I started an interdisciplinary Addiction Medicine Club. Our goal is to educate ourselves and other medical professionals about the disease of addiction and to raise awareness about how addiction affects individuals, their families and friends.