As a trustee of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, recovery advocate and philanthropist Ann Highet is a champion of healing and hope. In 2021, thanks to a transformational gift made by her parents, Elinor and Ron Highet, the Summer Institute for Medical Students program was expanded to Hazelden Betty Ford's Newberg, Oregon, campus. The program expansion to a third location greatly increases Hazelden Betty Ford's capacity to offer the immersive learning experience to more medical students.
I was profoundly inspired when I had the opportunity to attend the Summer Institute for Medical Students a few years ago. I believe that the program has a tremendous and far-reaching impact. The program equips healthcare professionals with the knowledge and ability to recognize and respond to the disease—and to respond with understanding and compassion as well as with options for care and support. Healthcare professionals in the program today are at the very start of their careers. Over the course of their profession, they will each be in a position to provide lifesaving guidance and care to thousands of patients.
Our family's support of medical education at Hazelden Betty Ford was also inspired by the legacy of my grandmother, Doris Montana Highet. She was raised in rural Washington at the turn of the century and moved 80 miles from home in order to attend high school. She worked as a nanny and housekeeper during that time to support herself. Following high school, she enrolled in college where she earned a degree in home economics, which was one of the few academic lanes earmarked for women at the time. Science kept calling my grandmother, and she parlayed her undergraduate degree into a master's degree, a doctorate in biochemistry, a doctorate in medicine and, ultimately, a practice as a physician. The opportunity to dedicate the Family and Medical Education Center at the Newberg campus to her memory was incredibly meaningful for our family.
The addiction epidemic means that medical professionals across every area of practice and specialty will undoubtedly encounter patients whose health is impacted by substance use disorders. When healthcare professionals understand addiction as a brain disease and not as a choice or as a lack of willpower, the conversations they have with patients and the medical guidance they provide can be lifesaving. Hazelden Betty Ford's medical education programs are helping to get those conversations started in doctors' offices, hospital emergency rooms and healthcare clinics everywhere—opening the door to greater awareness and resources for more people.
Like diabetes or hypertension, substance use disorder is classified by the medical field as a chronic disease. Even though treatment is effective, there's so much more shaming and stigma associated with substance use disorders than other chronic conditions. Tragically, that results in people not getting the help they need and deserve. We need to follow the science. We need to inform and train more healthcare professionals. We need to reach out with empathy and compassion. We need to let people know that there is help and there is hope.