The Need

Medical students receive little to no training in addictions as part of the regular curriculum, despite the fact that doctors encounter many patients with substance use disorders (SUDs) and SUDs are a major contributing factor to numerous other common chronic illnesses.

The Solution

Since 1999, IRETA has hosted two three-week immersive learning Fellowships for medical students funded by the Scaife Family Foundation.

The goal of the Scaife Fellowship is to increase participants’ knowledge, awareness and skill to assess for SUDs, treat the disease, and make appropriate referrals for treatment.

Site visits are offered at different levels of care to diverse populations, giving the students a well-rounded learning experience. Sites include: Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Allegheny County Correctional Health Facilities, and Gateway Rehabilitation Center.

Students also received a series of lectures on topics like SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment), The Impaired Professional, and Rural Drug and Alcohol Issues.

The Results

IRETA has been able to provide more than 120 medical and psychology students from over 50 medical schools with training in substance use and addiction.


Pre- and post-test data of the program show a positive effect on students’ motivation, their confidence, and their willingness to work with people who have substance use disorders.

Students not only finished the program with these proactive attitudes, some measured qualities persisted. When remeasured after three year’s time, therapeutic commitment and confidence remained elevated.

“I am forever grateful to IRETA and the Scaife Foundation for giving me this opportunity. I cannot imagine a more productive way to have spent my final free summer.”

— Lyndsey Heise, 2012 Scaife Fellow

“The Scaife Fellowship taught me to approach addiction in many settings, skills that will definitely come into play regardless of what specialty I choose.”

— Pavan Patel, 2014 Scaife Fellow