This summer, the journal Substance Abuse published a research report on the IRETA’s Scaife program to improve medical students’ understanding of addiction. Below is a message from our Board of Directors about the significance of these findings. 

Every summer, I present my story of addiction and recovery to about a dozen medical students at IRETA, and they ask me questions about it. We usually talk for about an hour. They’re always particularly interested to hear about my experience with physicians, both while I was in active addiction and now, in long-term recovery. Generally, my presentation comes near the end of their three-week training on addiction, and I can always tell they’ve absorbed a lot in that time. Their interest, enthusiasm, and compassion are plain to see.

After all these years, it’s very exciting to see actual data on the effectiveness of our summer medical program. I knew the program opened a lot of eyes, but until now, I didn’t know what a powerful effect it had on students’ attitudes. I also didn’t know that its effects last over time. What I find doubly exciting is that students who leave our program are going to influence whoever they work with over the course of their careers. Their compassion and skill are going to rub off on a lot of people.

It’s a big leap of honesty for those of us in addiction or recovery to tell medical professionals about it. Sometimes the information is not met well. I have heard many stories of physicians who mishandled situations with—at times—serious consequences. I consider myself very lucky. I’ve seen the same family practice doctor for my most of my life, and she is a huge supporter of my recovery. She’s always interested to hear how it’s going; she asks a lot of questions about it. And she’s very cognizant of the issue among all of her patients, because her practice (like so many others) is seriously affected by addiction.

Because of IRETA’s Scaife Fellowship for medical students, there are more doctors in the world with her unusual level of knowledge and skill, and more patients like me who receive holistic, high quality care. I couldn’t be prouder of this longstanding IRETA program, which without a doubt will directly impact many lives.

In fact, many of IRETA’s projects produce a direct and immediate impact on people’s lives. We have heightened our focus on service improvement and now work with addiction treatment centers, criminal justice systems, and methadone clinics that want to improve client outcomes. These boots-on-the-ground initiatives yield better care for people who need help, which is very gratifying to be part of.

Jesse Scheck
Vice Chairman and Secretary, IRETA Board of Directors

Want to know more about our work? IRETA’s staff and Board of Directors are delighted to share our FY 2017 Annual Report, which details the evaluation results of our longstanding medical student program, plus much more.