Yale professor co-chairs White House symposium on addiction medicine

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Dr. Patrick O’Connor co-chaired the landmark White House symposium on the role of medicine in addiction prevention and treatment. (Photo courtesy of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy)

On Sept. 18, 2015, Dr. Patrick O’Connor, chair of general internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine, co-chaired a landmark White House symposium on the role of medicine in addiction prevention and treatment. The purpose of the symposium, entitled “Medicine Responds to Addiction,” was to address the crisis of addiction through advances in medical training and practice.

“Today, we are at a critical turning point when it comes to addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery,” said O’Connor, who is also president of the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) Foundation, co-sponsor of the event with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) which is led by Director Michael Botticelli.

The historic meeting brought together leaders from several federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as representatives from graduate medical training programs, medical boards, public and private health care systems, and foundations from across the country.

Symposium speakers included CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden and U.S. Surgeon General and Yale alumnus Dr. Vivek Murthy ’03. The participating medical leaders represented the boards of disciplines as wide ranging as internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, preventive medicine, and pediatrics, in addition to leadership of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Dr. Patrick O’Connor (Photo courtesy of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy)

A major focus of the symposium was to identify ways to accelerate training and certification of medical providers in addiction prevention and treatment. “Training in addiction medicine is absolutely essential to build a workforce of competent providers,” said O’Connor. The critical importance of expanding physician training in addiction medicine was strongly supported by Frieden and Murthy who both identified addiction as one of our nation’s most significant public health problems. 

“There is now an extensive body of science concerning the epidemiology of addiction, the consequences of risky substance use and substance-use disorders, and the effective approaches to prevention and treatment,” O’Connor said. “The time has now come to advance patient care by fully integrating this science into medical practice.”

Over the past 5 years, ABAM Foundation has developed 36 addiction medicine fellowship training programs in North America, including one at Yale that is directed by Dr. Jeanette Tetrault, associate professor of medicine. Most significantly, the ABMS is now considering an application from the American Board of Preventive Medicine to establish addiction medicine as a full-fledged subspecialty available to providers from all medical fields.

O’Connor has led the efforts by ABAM Foundation to seek the establishment of this new subspecialty and it is anticipated that this process will be concluded in the near future.

“The establishment of addiction medicine as an ABMS-recognized medical discipline will result in transformative change in prevention, recognition, treatment, and recovery from addiction that will greatly improve the health of our nation,” he said.

Media Contact

Ziba Kashef: ziba.kashef@yale.edu, 203-436-9317