Cannabis helped Valerie Hepburn recover from knee surgery. It also helped her reimagine her career.
The former emergency medicine doctor, who became interested in integrative and functional medicine later on, turned to cannabis after suffering from arthritis and undergoing a bilateral knee replacement. She found cannabis more effective than the opioids she was prescribed after her surgery.
“During my post-op I was on opioids for pain, and weeks into it I realized they weren’t working so well,” she says. “With cannabis, I could stop opioids in one day and never touch them again. Before surgery I also used cannabis and it was only thing that relieved my pain.”
Hepburn’s positive experience with cannabis prompted her to enroll in the UVM Cannabis Science and Medicine Certificate program, a seven-week, online medical cannabis certificate designed for physicians, dispensary personnel, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physician assistants, and regulators.
Offered by UVM’s Department of Pharmacology in the Larner College of Medicine, the non-credit program covers cannabis history, business, law and policy, plant biology, biological effects on humans, production and safety, pharmacology, and clinical research.
“The program is extremely comprehensive. The faculty delved into all different areas—from plant biology to cultivation to production to the evolution of the plant and its political history. It taught me a lot about cannabis and resolved many of my questions,” she says.
Hepburn, who studied at Harvard University and Georgetown University, practiced emergency medicine for two decades in New York and New Jersey.
“Then after 20 years, I began to feel burned out from emergency medicine,” she says. “I realized I wanted to be a healer and not a doctor.”
As she faced some personal health issues, she took an interest in integrative and functional medicine to focus on the underlying cause of disease rather than treating symptoms. That led her to explore acupuncture, oils, and alternative means for treating illness, such as cannabis.
Ultimately, Hepburn hopes to start her own health and wellness business that would include CBD treatments. CBD, a compound found in cannabis plants, is known to alleviate anxiety and inflammation.
“I feel that there is such an interest out there in CBD,” she says. “And because of UVM, now I feel better prepared.”
Registration is now open for UVM’s Cannabis Science and Medicine Professional Certificate.