Meet Karen Antwiler, MD, a first-year resident with the Eisenhower Health Family Medicine Residency program. As a 2019 participant in the Professionals in Residence program at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, Karen joined other physicians for an immersive, insider’s view into evidence-based addiction treatment and Twelve Step recovery—learning alongside Betty Ford Center clinicians and patients. Why did you apply to the Professionals in Residence program at Rancho Mirage? I wanted to learn more about addiction medicine and how I, as a family practice resident, can effectively intervene with my patients before chronic aspects of the disease set in. Especially in family medicine, I think it’s important to take a holistic approach in addressing the medical needs of patients, and that includes addressing mental health and behavioral health needs. In many cases, primary care physicians are the first line of defense for patients who may be struggling with a substance use issue. We are in a position to recognize the symptoms of problematic alcohol or drug use, and to guide patients in considering whether their substance use could be putting their health and well-being at risk. As a physician, what was your biggest takeaway from the experience? During my week at the Betty Ford Center, I was involved in many treatment therapy and group counseling sessions alongside patients. I was impressed by the strides patients were able to make toward regaining their health over a relatively short period of time. With a chronic disease such as diabetes or hypertension, it’s not typical to see significant progress in the course of one week. But I could see how, in a matter of several days, patients at the Betty Ford Center went from first learning about addiction as a disease to recognizing the extent of their symptoms to accepting help and starting to make changes. Seeing that progress was a very rewarding and encouraging feeling for me as a physician. My time with patients at the Betty Ford Center also opened my eyes to the fact that addiction is a disease that doesn't discriminate. People from all walks of life can develop addiction—people who have successful careers, people who have loving families, people who are highly educated and high-functioning. How has the experience changed the way you practice medicine? The program equipped me with the skills, tools and confidence to talk more openly with my patients about how substance use might be affecting their health, well-being, relationships and other aspects of their life. By fostering a compassionate, nonjudgmental atmosphere, I can help my patients feel comfortable discussing what might otherwise feel too difficult or personal to discuss. In addition to integrating addiction medicine into my family practice, I've incorporated this holistic approach in my street medicine outreach as I help people understand the importance of receiving treatment for both their substance use issue and other health conditions together. I've been amazed at how many patients ask me about the camel lapel pin I received from the Professionals in Residence program. In explaining what the pin stands for, I have a natural way to open up conversations about addiction, sobriety and closely related mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Thanks to the Professionals in Residence program, I am much more adept at talking with my patients about addiction as a disease and discussing the types of resources and support available.