Board of Directors
Aleksandra E. Zgierska, MD, PhD, DFASAM
Dr. Aleksandra Zgierska has focused her career on advancing practice, research, education, and advocacy in addiction medicine. She is a tenured Professor of Family and Community Medicine, Public Health Sciences, and Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, and Vice Chair of Research at the Penn State Department of Family and Community Medicine.
She lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with her husband David, their two children, one dog, and numerous plants. She loves hiking, including “walking meetings”, especially in the mountains. Dr. Zgierska is board-certified in family medicine and addiction medicine (American Board of Preventive Medicine) and provides both primary and addiction care.
She earned MD and PhD degrees in Warsaw, Poland before moving to Madison, WI, where she completed residency and NIH-funded research training. She served as a University of Wisconsin faculty member (2009-2019) prior to moving to Penn State, where she continues to teach students, residents, fellows, and peers. Her educational efforts and large federally funded research portfolio focus on the prevention and treatment of addiction, especially when it involves opioids, and improving outcomes in chronic pain.
She has served on numerous local, state and national task forces, committees and workgroups, participating in the development of professional guidelines and policies, and advocating for aligning legislative efforts with evidence-based approach to addiction care, and reduction of addiction-related harm, stigma and health disparities.
Dr. Zgierska is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and has been involved in ASAM since 2006. She served on the Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine (WISAM) Board of Directors for 8 years, including 2 years as President. She also served as Vice-Chair for the ASAM’s Chapters’ Council for over 4 years and is an active member of the ASAM Public Policy Committee and the ASAM Board of Directors, including serving as Secretary since 2021.
She is committed to, and passionate about, advancing the field of addiction medicine, and the ASAM’s mission and vision.
Candidate Questionnaire Response
1. What have been your greatest contributions to ASAM or to the field of addiction medicine over the last 10 years?
CONTRIBUTIONS TO ASAM:
I have been involved in ASAM in numerous roles since 2006. As president of the Wisconsin Chapter (WISAM), I developed initiatives that tripled our membership. I also expanded the Chapter’s scope and reach, and promoted interdisciplinary, inclusive collaboration and education to reduce disparities, and improve access and outcomes in addiction treatment state-wide. Toward this goal, WISAM started monthly “drop-in” teleconferences, open to members and non-members, that have steadily grown and continue to date; expanded its annual conference from a half-day small gathering to a robust educational event with attendees from diverse backgrounds; ensured WISAM representation on major state-level decision-making and policy-setting groups; and hired a professional management company to support Chapter’s growth. On the national level, I have served as a member of the ASAM Public Policy Committee and the Annual Conference Program Planning Committee, Vice-Chair for the ASAM Chapters’ Council (2017-2021), and am the ASAM Secretary (2021-current), participating in the ASAM Board of Directors and Executive Council work.
My experience leading the WISAM and serving on the ASAM Committees, Chapters’ Council, and the Board of Directors has given me an in-depth understanding of the inner workings of the Society, of not-for-profit volunteer board operations, and of the external forces, which can impact the ASAM. This service also demonstrates my skills, commitment and passion to the addiction medicine field and its goals, including those of diversity, equity and inclusion, that will translate well in advancing the ASAM’s mission and vision as Vice-President.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE FIELD OF ADDICTION MEDICINE:
My main contribution to addiction medicine has been in research, education, and clinical care that have real-life impact. As an academic family medicine and ABPM-certified addiction medicine physician, and a tenured faculty member first at the UW-Madison, and now at Penn State, I have been actively engaged in clinical care, research, advocacy, and education to reduce the stigma and harms of addiction, reduce health disparities in addiction care, and improve prevention efforts, and treatment access and outcomes among individuals with addiction. Each of these activities strengthens the field of addiction medicine and, by extension, is beneficial to ASAM.
My federally funded research, rooted in evidenced-based care for addiction and chronic pain, complements my clinical practice. My ongoing studies focus on patient-centeredness, stakeholder and community engagement, and essential elements of addiction, and include expanding our understanding of how maternal substance use impacts child’s development and health; improving research and clinical care engagement among pregnant persons with addiction, a clinical population which is particularly affected by addiction-related stigma and legal consequences; the impact of involving recovery peer specialists on linking people with addiction to research, treatment, and other resources that, in turn, can improve health; effective management of pain while decreasing the risk of opioid-related harms; and ways for reducing addiction-related stigma and harm in communities. I am particularly proud of the recent city-wide initiatives with the City of Madison law enforcement that diverted people with addiction who committed a minor, drug use-related crime from the criminal justice system to addiction treatment; and the Wisconsin-wide initiative linking adults admitted to emergency departments for an overdose with peer support to prevent a repeat overdose.
With over 100 publications and numerous presentations, I strive to inform my educational activities, patient care, and advocacy. The addiction and pain care related curricula I developed have been implemented locally and nationally by the Veterans Administration (VA) as a part of the VA’s Whole Health project. As a co-chair for American Academy of Pain Medicine Substance Use Disorder Shared Interest Group, I bring addiction medicine perspective to pain care providers. As a faculty at family medicine residencies, and addiction medicine-focused clinical and research fellowships, I am involved in patient care and education to include addiction medicine principles in primary care. I have served on numerous local, state, and national task forces, committees and workgroups, participated in the development of professional guidelines and policies, and advocated for alignment of legislative efforts with evidence-based approaches, and diversity, inclusion and equity in addiction care.
Overall, I am well acquainted with the ASAM, its programs and services, passionate about its mission, and have energy and commitment to support ASAM’s growth as the leader in the addiction medicine field.
2. How would your election to the ASAM Board of Directors benefit ASAM and the field of addiction medicine?
The need for ASAM to speak with a strong, clear voice has never been greater.
ASAM has responded with a rapidly growing membership, and increased scope and influence in national clinical, scientific, policy and legislative debates. As Vice-President, I have the experience, drive, and track record to contribute to each. I am passionate about bringing together the perspectives of diverse stakeholders, including individual clinicians and state chapters, decreasing addiction-associated stigma and health disparities, and working toward and advocating for evidence-based equitable addiction care for all.
My experience as a clinician, educator, researcher, and a leader at the WISAM (Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine) and ASAM is directly applicable to the responsibilities of the ASAM Vice-President. I would actively build upon these achievements and skills to continue advancing the ASAM’s mission and vision.