Skip to content Skip to navigation

News at ASAM: Accreditation of residencies signals new era in addiction medicine

April 13, 2011
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
| Reprints
ABAM Foundation president says market changes are playing to MDs’ strengths

As addiction medicine specialists convene this week for the annual Medical-Scientific Conference of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), a first-ever accreditation of post-graduate addiction medicine residencies is being seen as elevating addiction physicians to a level on par with individuals in other medical specialties.

“Addiction medicine has been the orphan in the family of medicine, although prevention and treatment of addiction could save more lives than any other medical intervention,” says Kevin Kunz, MD, president of the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) Foundation, which formally accredited 10 training programs last week.

Kunz and colleagues who have worked on this pioneering accreditation effort for about three years are scheduled to update attendees of the April 14-17 ASAM conference at an evening workshop on April 14 in Washington, D.C. Kunz believes this year’s ASAM conference is being held at a time during which addiction medicine specialists share great enthusiasm.

“The average physician feels that their time has come,” Kunz says. Health reform’s emphasis on cost control and quality represents an ideal fit for addiction medicine, given the body of research documenting savings to society from the provision of addiction treatment services, he says.

Moreover, addiction physicians are beginning to feel that they are part of effective treatment teams, both with generalist physicians and with specialty professionals in the addiction treatment community, Kunz says.

Kunz believes those feelings will be reinforced by the establishment of accredited post-graduate residencies in addiction medicine. The ABAM Foundation worked with an original target list of 85 institutions and programs, whittling that down to an undisclosed number of programs that were formally considered for accreditation.

The 10 accredited residencies are:

  • Boston University Medical Center
  • Geisinger Health System, Marworth Treatment Center, Waverly, Pa.
  • The St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals, New York City
  • University at Buffalo School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine
  • University of Florida College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Gainesville, Fla.
  • University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu
  • University Hospital, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, VA Medical Center
  • University of Maryland Medical System, Sheppard Pratt, Baltimore
  • University of Minnesota Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Minneapolis
  • University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Center for Addictive Disorders, Madison, Wis.

Kunz says the programs considered for accreditation underwent the same type of application format that residencies accredited by the American Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) face. This is critical, Kunz explains, because once the ABAM Foundation accredits around 25 stable programs (it expects another 5 to 10 to be accredited next year), it intends to apply to the ACGME for that body to accredit the addiction medicine residencies going forward.

“We want to have standards as high as any other medical specialty,” Kunz says. “We’re confident we can do that.”


Therefore, under the ABAM Foundation’s initial accreditation process, institutions had to demonstrate through 50 pages of application documents that they meet core standards for educational content and objectives. In addition, to be eligible for ABAM Foundation accreditation, each program had to be associated with an institution that already has ACGME residencies, Kunz said.


The accredited programs are “very energetic,” Kunz says. “They are positive, forward-looking groups.”


ASAM assisted in the creation of the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and in the spring of 2009 ABAM conferred board certification on 1,452 physicians in its first diploma ceremony. Prior to ABAM’s establishment, psychiatry was the only medical specialty that offered sub-specialized training and certification in addictions.

Topics