Dual-degree medical student studies addiction at famed clinic

Megan Smith is a medical and a Master of Public Health student at the Boonshoft School of Medicine.

Thanks to a weeklong stint shadowing a patient at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Megan Smith has a deeper appreciation for the struggles addicts face. The dual-degree student at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine was so impacted by her experience that she wishes all people could learn similar lessons.

Smith is part of the Physician Leadership Development Program (PLDP) that allows medical students to pursue M.B.A. or M.P.H. degrees during an additional year between their second and third years of medical school. She was able to spend time at the famous clinic during her year as a Master of Public Health student.

“Having witnessed addiction firsthand, I was moved to apply to the program to learn more,” said Smith, a native of Cleveland. “The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has an outstanding reputation for the treatment of addiction, and there was no better way to learn.”

Her time there included lectures, but most of her learning took place through shadowing a resident patient at a drug rehabilitation center. The interaction gave Smith a new respect for the journeys taken by those seeking treatment for addiction.

She also saw how indiscriminately the affliction affects people from all walks of life. “Addiction doesn’t respect societal boundaries, and I think that’s important to recognize as a health care provider,” Smith said.

Smith learned the principles of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, the pathophysiology of addiction and the benefits of multidisciplinary care for substance use disorders.

She met people whose families had given up on them after just one relapse. Without a supportive community, she saw that their recoveries were much more difficult.

“I learned that recovery from addiction is anything but a linear improvement, and that the human spirit can recover from the darkest of places,” Smith said. “I would encourage everyone to seek out a deeper understanding of addiction so that we can continue to diminish the stigma and improve the well-being of our communities.”

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