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Major foundation award will fuel addiction education for MDs

December 17, 2012
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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For more than 25 years the Betty Ford Center has strengthened physicians-in-training’s knowledge of addiction by rotating medical school students into a one-week summer institute at the treatment facility. Now a major foundation grant will allow the Rancho Mirage, Calif., treatment center to launch an even more ambitious effort to integrate addiction topics into general medical education.

The Betty Ford Center on Dec. 12 announced that the Florida-based Scaife Family Foundation, a longtime supporter of the treatment center’s Summer Institute for Medical Students (SIMS), has awarded the center $1.2 million to implement the Medical Education Initiative. In an interview with Addiction Professional, Betty Ford Center president and CEO John Schwarzlose explained that the new initiative will have two primary components:

·        The filming of a dozen high-definition lectures in which key authorities on a number of subtopics in addiction (such as, perhaps, genetics) will deliver information that can be shown at any medical school during any phase of students’ course of study.

·        A pilot effort in which a number of medical schools will designate a point person on the faculty to serve as a mentor for medical students on addiction-related topics. That faculty member will visit the Betty Ford Center annually for continuing education in addictions.

Schwarzlose says that in addition to the $1.2 million grant, the Scaife Family Foundation also awarded the center $100,000 toward continuation of the SIMS program. Also, it gave the center a third grant of $100,000 for its nationally known Children’s Program for children affected by addiction in their family.

Foundation Chairman Jennie K. Scaife said with regard to the $1.2 million award, “The Betty Ford Center has long been an advocate and a resource in the field of medical education. We are pleased to support this dramatic expansion of the center’s efforts in this vitally important area.”

The need is obvious

Schwarzlose says the importance of familiarizing medical students with addiction and its manifestations in overall health becomes unmistakable every time a new group of students arrives for the SIMS program. With few exceptions, the students tell the Betty Ford Center’s staff, “We get nothing on this in our four years of medical school,” Schwarzlose says.

Every other week from May through August, the Betty Ford Center invites eight male and eight female students (each of whom has just completed either the first or second year of medical school) for what Schwarzlose describes as a week of “immersion” with patients. This past summer, 112 students out of around 300 applicants attended SIMS.

“They spend most of their time with patients over their six days here,” Schwarzlose says. He says the schedule for the institute is staggered over several months in part because the facility wants to minimize the impact of the students’ presence on patients. The students’ travel and lodging costs are covered, and they eat many of their meals at the facility.

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