Trip To Betty Ford Institute In My Future

    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

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7 Comments + Add Comment

  • What a great post! I had my own chair at AA when I was little.

  • What an amazing story about your dad and an amazing opportunity for you! I'm sure you will enjoy ever second of your time spent there.

  • Wow, what a great story! That opportunity sounds amazing, I'm jealous! Enjoy it!

  • What an incredible opportunity! Even more amazing that you are already practicing such reflection on how to improve your profession. I look forward to hearing about your experience. My father also struggled with 'that demon' for many, many years.

  • When I read this post I am almost brought to tears. My dad has a drug addiction. About 7 years ago he had an aneurysm and it was then that we found out about his addiction. I was thinking today how huge twitter is and how awesome it would be to reach out to someone that has been through the same thing with their family member and I see this. I have begged my dad to get help but he is still in denial and doesn’t feel that the drugs are controlling him. He thinks that he is in full control. This is obviously not the case. I want to help him so bad but I don’t know what to do. I just pray ever day that by some miracle he will accept the help that has been offered. I don’t want him to lose his life to this.

  • I majored in neuroscience in college because I wanted to be a doctor (not a neurologist or psychiatrist though) and I figured I’d learn Biology in med school but I might not learn too much neuroscience. This was my rationale. I never knew it would totally changed the way I think about everything…especially things like addiction. When you actually sit down and really learn, study, and contemplate how the brain works…you can never, ever fault a person with an addiction. In fact, I can’t feel anything but compassion for any person with behavioral manifestations of what’s going on in their brains. I’ve just come to view the brain like any other organ that can malfunction. (Although sometimes this sort of reductionist theory can make humans seem too much like robots, so I have to remind myself not to think about it TOO much.)

    Anyway, it’s fabulous that you’re able to do this, and your current and future patients are so lucky to have a doctor with this added sensitivity. I promise to join you in the fight against the unfair judgement of addicts, if I ever become a doctor one day!

  • I am so proud of you.

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About The Author

I'm an ObGyn. I started this blog as a medical student (some would call that doctor school) and now I'm working as an Ob/Gyn, which is seriously the coolest job ever. I'm a twin mom and recently added a baby brudder to the mix. My life story through November 2010 can be viewed here. The events in the many years following can be summed up as wedding bells, books, exams, babies, and doctoring. I started this blog in hopes of landing a role in a Lifetime movie so I could quit medicine and move to Hollywood, but that hasn't happened...so if you wouldn't take medical advice from Angelina Jolie, you shouldn't take it from me. I may not even be a real person. In fact, I'm probably a spambot. Or possibly a 15 yo boy blogging from a dingy basement. If you're really interested you can read more about me here. If you have any questions or want to guest post contact me.

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