American Society of Addiciton Medicine

Board of Directors

Leadership

Board of Directors

Surita Rao, MD, FASAM

Director At Large


Surita Rao, M.D. is an associate professor and director of the psychiatry residency training program, at the University of Connecticut Medical School, Department of psychiatry. She is a psychiatrist specializing in addiction.

Her career has focused on patient care, administration, and teaching. She completed Medical School at Bankura Sammilani Medical College in India and did her psychiatry residency and fellowship training at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, New York Medical College and the Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine.

She has been on the faculty at Yale and Emory Universities and worked with a private practice group in Atlanta. Upon completing her fellowship training, she worked as the Medical Director of the methadone maintenance clinics at Yale University School of Medicine. She has worked with impaired physicians and other health care professionals.

From December 2002 through October 2014, she was the Chair and Director of the Behavioral Health Service Line at Saint Francis Care. She has done statewide, regional, and national presentations in the field of psychiatry and addiction psychiatry including participation in several ECHO projects. She has done numerous media appearances in local and national media [radio and television] and had her own radio show on Voice America “Mental Health with Dr. Surita Rao”.

Dr. Rao has served on the Board of Directors for the American Society of Addiction Medicine [ASAM] and serves on several national ASAM committees. She is past president of the CT chapter of ASAM. Dr. Rao was chair of the physicians’ health committee at Saint Francis. She has also served on the Board of the Root Center in Connecticut. She did a variety of media appearances on television and radio over her career, including appearances on CNN and a pilot series of a radio show on Voice America Internet radio: " Mental Health with Dr. Surita Rao". Podcasts can be found online and through iTunes.

 

Candidate Questionnaire Responses

1. What have been your greatest contributions to ASAM or to the field of addiction medicine over the last 10 years?
My first experience with ASAM was attending a regional ASAM conference when I was doing my fellowship in addiction psychiatry. I arrived there as a trainee, not knowing anyone and received the warmest welcome I had ever experienced at a busy medical conference. The ASAM physician organizers of the conference, introduced me to people and insisted that I serve as a panel discussant at a presentation on the treatment of patients with dual diagnosis conditions, over my protest that I did not have enough experience. A few years later as a physician in practice I joined ASAM and experienced the same combination of a tremendous dedication to the care and advocacy of patients suffering from substance use disorders, acquisition and dissemination of evidence based science and information, and the warmth and inclusion which I had experienced as a fellow in my first contact with ASAM.

Over the years, I have served in various capacities on ASAM committees, including as president of the Connecticut Chapter of ASAM from January 2009 through December 2010, as the vice president of the Connecticut Chapter of ASAM from January 2008 through December 2008 and vice chair of the membership committee. Currently, I serve on the ASAM ethics committee, the nominations and awards committee and the ASAM criteria education committee and the executive committee of the Connecticut Chapter of ASAM from January 2008.

My career has focused on a combination of patient care, administration and teaching. My clinical work and teaching responsibilities have predominantly focused on the field of addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry. I teach didactic seminars and case conferences and do clinical supervision for medical students, residents and fellows. I have also done numerous scholarly presentations to various groups of people in healthcare including fellow physicians, nurses and therapists.

I have mentored residents and medical students, with a focus on enhancing their education in the field of addiction medicine. In the past seven years since I returned to academia and became a residency program director, I have expanded my participation and continued to teach and mentor residents and medical students, to develop and foster their interest and knowledge in treating patients with substance use disorder. This involves, promoting their participation in clinical experiences and in scholarly presentations at institutional, statewide and regional settings. The Connecticut chapter of ASAM has a residents and fellows educational conference and competition every year, where residents and fellows enter posters and power point presentations on a variety of topics within addiction medicine. I have worked closely with the psychiatry residents to encourage them to enter poster presentations every year. Thirteen residents have done poster presentations at the annual CT ASAM educational conference and competition over the past six years. Residents have done four oral case presentations at statewide PROJECT ECHO presentations, where I served as the subject matter expert. I have also served as a mentor to residents who have gone on to doing fellowship training in addiction psychiatry or focus a part of their career treating patients with substance use disorders.

In the past 6 years, at the University of Connecticut School of medicine, UConn Health Center as the program director of the psychiatry residency program, I have developed and maintained a wide variety of required and elective rotations in addiction psychiatry, including rotations at every level of care in programs dedicated to the treatment of patients and substance use disorders substance use disorders. These include two required four week blocks each in a dual diagnosis and detoxification unit and a residential program, for second year residents. I started two half day addiction psychiatry clinics and a clinical rotation in the dual diagnosis track of the intensive outpatient program. I have maintained and expanded clinical rotations in a methadone program and a variety of clinics at the VA, including buprenorphine clinics, nicotine clinic and a harm reduction clinic.

I serve on the Opioid Task Force at UConn health and on the Alcohol and Drug Policy Council [ADPC] for the State of Connecticut and on the ADPC’s prevention Subcommittee. I also serve on the American Association of Directors of Psychiatry Residency Training [AADPRT] Addictions Committee.

In addition to my work within the addiction medicine field, in recent years I have also served as an active participant in several projects in the area of pain management and addiction medicine. These efforts focus on utilizing pharmacotherapies and other interventions which are an alternative to opioid pain medications. Since 2018, I have worked as part of a grant funded multidisciplinary team, including two primary care physicians, a clinical pharmacist, at the Connecticut Comprehensive Pain Center (CCPC) since 2018, doing E Consults for pain. This service is a provider-to-provider asynchronous consultation. Beyond the consult as a means to providing education, our team has also provided statewide presentations regarding chronic pain management including substance use disorders and other knowledge gaps identified through completion of our e-consults. I have served as the addiction psychiatry expert in several ECHO projects including an ECHO Project on chronic pain and addictions. This involved video conferencing state wide presentations to multiple primary care clinics bi-weekly from August 2018 to June 2020.

2. How would your election to the ASAM Board of Directors benefit ASAM and the field of addiction medicine?
If I was elected as Director at large for ASAM, I would bring my knowledge, experience and dedication from my many years of doing patient care, teaching and scholarly presentations in the field of addiction medicine. [For details please see the section above].In addition I would bring my interpersonal soft skills and my experience serving on various ASAM committees over the past many years and within my state chapter.