I was three and she was 24 when we left – for years the alcohol and drugs precipitated the fighting, which brought on the feelings of guilt, which inevitably lead to more drinking. It was a vicious cycle that had to be broken and, no matter how much my he begged my mom not to leave with me, she knew we couldn’t stay.
He’s a good man, my dad – a smart, hard-working, exceptionally talented man with a detrimental disease that makes people look at him differently when they find out. Two months after we left he checked himself into a rehab facility and, when they deemed him healthy enough to leave, he started taking me along to his weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
I get my determination and persistence from my dad, an addict who has been clean and sober now for over 20 years. I have a deep desire to be the doctor who knows addicts are real people who can be helped, a doctor who is compassionate to the struggles of those with substance-abuse issues and understands that addiction is a disease. One thing I don’t want – to be the doctor who passes over these patients as “drunks” or “druggies” who are passed the point of being helped. After all, there’s a good chance my dad wouldn’t have been around to walk me down the aisle two years ago had someone not believed that, when he finally hit rock bottom in 1989, he could still be helped.
I never got around to writing a post for my amazing Dad on Father’s Day, so I’ll talk about him a little here*. He has overcome so much for me and our family – fighting through the tough hand of addiction and trials he was dealt in his early 20’s, he managed to come out on the other side as an inspiring story of success. He truly is one of the most unfaltering and inspiring people I’ve ever known and I’m so lucky to call him “Dad.”
The fight he fought and the journey we travelled together inspired me to apply for an opportunity that promises to be life-changing – a week at the Betty Ford Institute during my Psychiatry rotation. A big-hearted donor, who fought addiction himself, sponsors four of our third-year students to spend time learning about addiction treatment at the world-renowned Betty Ford Institute during their Psychiatry rotations.
Along with @BChanMed and two others from our school I’ll be spending the last week of August submerged in addiction treatment. Although the other patients will know we are at the center for a learning experience and despite the fact that we will have lectures geared at treatment from a physician standpoint, a large part of our week will be active participation in the unique treatment program put forth by the center. We will learn the ins and outs of treatment by participating first hand in small group and counseling activities with other patients who struggle with various addictions.
The Betty Ford Center is the only US addiction rehab facility currently offering a program like this for medical students and I am so honored to be a part of the Summer Institute for Medical Students.
First hand participation has been proven time and again to be pivotal in teaching us to be great physicians, but personal experience has taught me that physician-training in the area of addiction treatment is lacking, to say the least. It is not just those of us who choose Psychiatry as our specialty who will interact with people struggling with substance abuse or addiction – these are afflictions felt by patients from pediatrics to geriatrics and everywhere in between. I am so grateful to have this medical education opportunity and I hope that other programs will take note of the Betty Ford Institute’s revolutionary initiative and increase the number of medical students offered this opportunity by following suit to create similar programs.
I anticipate a life-changing look into how professionals go about treating those who struggle with addiction and also help in teaching their family to be assets of rehabilitation. I am confident that I can take what I learn in my week at the center and translate that into compassion and understanding for the benefit of my future patients and I hope that this experience will enable me to be a better doctor, a better daughter and a better educator.
*My Step-Dad is also a huge influence in my life and if I were writing a post for Father’s Day he would most definitely be included. I’ve written a bit about him & organ donation advocacy here.