The most important thing I didn’t learn about in medical school: Adverse childhood experiences

ACEs Too High

anhardt Dr. Nancy Hardt


The most important thing I didn’t learn in medical school is about adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs.

To be sure, if I had understood them then the way I do now, I would have been a better and more compassionate physician. Importantly, I would have avoided lots of mistakes.

What kind of mistakes, you ask?

I was pretty much a failure taking care of smokers, drinkers, drug addicts, and morbidly obese people. People who were chronically depressed or in chronic pain were not helped by me either.

I never understood that addictions to food, drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, are imperfect solutions to the effects of toxic stress resulting from adverse childhood experiences. Toxic stress sets up pathways in the brains of traumatized children, pathways which persist into adulthood. We don’t outgrow these pathways, so as we get older, we try “home remedies” to treat…

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