Pubdate: Fri, 06 Mar 2009
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Keith Gerein
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Doctors In Training Hope To Gain Experience In Addictions Treatment

Ozzy Osbourne has been a guest there.

So have Elizabeth Taylor, Keith Urban and David Hasselhoff.

Now eight University of Alberta medical students are heading to the 
Betty Ford Center in California to experience the same treatment 
given to rich and famous celebrities.

Of course, the students aren't attending to get clean and sober, as 
Kelsey Grammer and Billy Joel did. Yet they'll go through the same 
therapy sessions, workshops and lectures for a first-hand look at 
addiction recovery from the patient's perspective.

"Basically you do the program with the patients and their families," 
said Phil Bach, a third-year U of A med student who went to Betty 
Ford last August.

"You go through everything they go through, spending the whole day with them."

That time spent with the patients, rather than shadowing the centre's 
staff, is what makes the program a unique learning experience, said 
Laurie Mereu, an assistant dean with the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.

"The students will be able to follow patients from start to finish," she said.

"It'll give them a broader insight as to what's involved with 
treatment. The training should allow them to be more compassionate 
and understanding physicians in their future careers."

The eight U of A students, joined by a group from the University of 
Calgary, will spend five days at Betty Ford starting March 30.

To go, the students had to receive scholarships from the Norlien 
Foundation, which is covering all their travel, accommodation and 
tuition expenses.

There were no visits from Drew Barrymore, John Daly or other 
celebrities during Bach's time at Betty Ford, but he said it was 
still an educational treat to be at one of the world's most famous 
addiction facilities. "I'm interested in gastroenterology, which can 
deal with liver disease, and one of the major causes is alcohol 
abuse," he said. "So it made sense for me to go and look at a patient 
population that could make up a significant portion of my practice."

Students are assigned to one of three programs at the facility, 
including the basic inpatient program and a special program for 
professionals who work in safety-sensitive jobs such as lawyers, 
pilots and nurses.

Bach was placed in the centre's family program, which treats the 
relatives of chemically dependent people. Many of the sessions 
focussed on coping skills, handling confrontations with an addicted 
relative, avoiding enabling behaviour, and getting over feelings of 
guilt and shame.

"The family members we saw were very open with us and shared a lot of 
personal stories," Bach said. "When you're looking at overall patient 
treatment, treating the family is something that can't be ignored."

One of the most interesting experiences for Bach was talking to 
physicians who were patients at the centre. "It's easy to feel immune 
to any disease or addiction, but meeting people similar to us and 
hearing their stories made me realize it something we have to watch 
out for," he said.

"You've got highly driven, high-achieving people who go decide to go 
into a discipline impossible to master and comes with high levels of 
stress. And a physician has the means to sustain an addiction that a 
layperson does not have."

One drawback of the program was that most guests at Betty Ford seemed 
to be wealthy, and it would have been nice to hear the experiences of 
a more diverse patient group, Bach said.

The Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., southeast of Los 
Angeles, was founded in 1982 by the former U.S. first lady.
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