Quality & Science

Member Profile: Edwin Salsitz, MD, FASAM

by Matt Vandover | August 14, 2015

Salsitz photoWhen someone talks about taking a class, most people think of a room with people more or less held captive by a speaker who talks at them ad nauseam. Fortunately, not all educators are like this. One of ASAM’s leading educators is Dr. Edwin Salsitz, FASAM, affectionately known as “the ASAM Eagle” due to the amount of time he spends traveling around the country to teach the ER/LA Opioid REMS Course (Early Release/Long-Acting Opioid Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy).

Dr. Salsitz has been involved in ASAM’s educational programs since 1998, when he took his first Review Course. Since then he has been on the Continuing Medical Education Committee and the Planning Committee for the State of the Art Course; been the Chair or Co-Chair of the Pain & Addiction Committee, ASAM Review Course Committee, REMS Committee; and has been on the faculty of the REMS Course and the Fundamentals Course. He is also an attending physician at the Beth Israel Medical Center and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Addiction Medicine. As a result of his significant contributions to the field, he was named an ASAM Fellow in 2003 and received the ASAM Annual Award in 2014.

Dr. Salsitz became a member of ASAM when his interests shifted from pulmonology to addiction. He has been involved in the Review Course as a faculty or committee member since 2000 and says that it is his favorite course. When asked why he enjoys being a member of ASAM, Dr. Salsitz cited ASAM’s commitment to the highest quality in addiction medicine and the exposure it provides to the thought leaders in the field from around the world. He also appreciates that ASAM is such a diverse organization because it allows people to focus on topics that interest them or best fit their skill set.

While most people might find constant travel exhausting and burdensome, Dr. Salsitz loves it because it provides him with opportunities to meet new people, see what it is that they do, and observe different attitudes about addiction medicine from different places. He also enjoys being the expert and piquing people’s interest in addiction medicine. Attendees of his courses love him too as is evident in the glowing compliments he receives. One attendee said that he "seemed very knowledgeable and compassionate.” Another said “I really enjoyed the section on how to decide when pain management becomes addiction.” A third said that Dr. Salsitz was an “excellent speaker who maintained interest throughout [the] program.”

Looking at the future, Dr. Salsitz sees ASAM taking on the critical role of educating physicians and the public about addiction. He also predicts that ASAM’s publications will become the standard in the field. He believes that ASAM will become the leading advocacy group that policy makers turn to for advice.

Some challenges that lay in ASAM’s future that Dr. Salsitz cited include recruiting a sufficient number of physicians who are interested and competent in treating addiction because of the complications inherent in the field, issues with insurance payments and prior authorization, and parity. Psychosocial problems that some patients have can be challenging to manage as well as the requirement for a multidisciplinary team to deal with these issues that are not necessarily an obvious part of addiction. There is still great need to educate the public and lawmakers about struggles physicians and patients face when the time needed for medication assisted treatment is artificially limited by legislation or regulations, and the challenges of new technology affecting treatment of addictions. He also would like to see the number of fellowships in addiction medicine increase and to have more addiction specialists in geographically underserved areas of the country.

If you are new to the field of addiction medicine, Dr. Salsitz suggests that you seek out a mentor or colleague in ASAM who can help with the challenges unique to addiction medicine, such as the fact that addiction medicine requires the blending of the art and science of medicine. He also suggests that you participate in any ASAM activities in your area. If you are looking to have a REMS course in your area, please contact education@asam.org.