After years of his mother struggling with substance use that resulted in her passing due to overdose, Kyle Henneke had a lot of questions. The M.D./M.P.H. student at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine was left wondering why the health care system had failed his mom. Henneke couldn’t help but believe that things might have gone differently if his mother had met a health care professional who could connect with her.
Henneke, who is a registered nurse, is a representative for the class of 2022 at the Boonshoft School of Medicine. Because of his experience, he has always wanted to learn more about disorders involving substance use or alcohol. He sought out information and later learned from a faculty member about the Summer Institute for Medical Students at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
The week-long immersion program, offered 13 times each summer at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, draws participants from medical schools around the country and internationally. A few hundred students are chosen for the program each year. By shadowing addiction treatment patients and family program participants, medical students gain insight into the dynamics of addiction and the process of healing.
“I’m one of the few students who had an opportunity to have direct patient care and training in addiction medicine at a world-class treatment center a mere one year into my medical education,” Henneke said. “We got hands-on learning with patients in the wards, lectures from specialists in the field, and an opportunity to dive deeper into a subject area that usually requires fellowship-level training.”
Henneke learned a great deal about addiction medicine. He became aware of the misconceptions that exist. The up-and-coming field impressed him. Henneke saw that addiction medicine combines the management of medical, psychiatric and social factors all into one.
He learned that the field is growing rapidly and that it’s incredibly important to keep up to date on the latest research, therapies and academic literature. Each patient is different, and treatments need to be tailored to their unique situations.
“The physician is only as successful with patient outcomes as the rest of the team. It’s not simply ordering medications to manage acute issues involved in the disorder and handing it off to social workers and therapists,” Henneke said. “It seems challenging and engaging, sometimes with a great payoff in seeing your work directly and immediately impact someone’s life for the better.”
Involving the patient in the recovery process requires a great deal of empathy. Henneke relishes the opportunity to have close-knit relationships with his future patients. As a student nearly finished with his first year of medical school, Henneke has received a lot of experience in clinical skills labs, but his time with actual patients has been limited. The experience in the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation program let him get closer with those with addiction disorders.
Because of the training that he received, Henneke hopes to incorporate therapeutic patient-physician relationships into his future medical practice. He is heavily considering specializing in cardiology, emergency medicine or internal medicine. Henneke is pursuing a Master of Public Health as part of the Physician Leadership Development Program at the medical school and may also use what he learned in future public health work.
“If addiction medicine is done right and based on evidence, it becomes very much a team effort with everyone involved — especially the patient,” Henneke said. “One size usually does not fit all patients in medicine and addiction medicine is certainly no different.”