Quality & Science

Getting to Know ASAM’s New President

by | June 7, 2021

When he looks back at how he became ASAM’s new president, William F. Haning, III, MD, DFASAM, DLFAPA, says that he thinks the role kind of snuck up on him.

“I really can’t take credit for having a coolly-thought-out, rational plan of ascending through the ranks,” quipped Haning, professor emeritus of psychiatry and program director of addiction psychiatry/addiction medicine at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai’i. “I am not that smart, devious, or politically strategic.”

Dr. William Haning IIIThe retired US Navy captain said there’s a lot that excites him about his new role. There’s also a lot of work ahead for him and ASAM.

“The most attractive prospect is of adding to, hopefully not subtracting from, a conversation that includes some of the finest minds, nicest and most ethical people in medicine in relieving one of this country’s, indeed the world’s most persistent plagues,” he said of addiction. “There is the current pandemic, COVID-19, which has been with us for a little over a year. There are substance use disorders including alcoholism, more simply stated addictions, which have been with us for millennia. It would be nice to be associated with the final resolution of addiction as an impediment to man’s progress.”

Prior to retirement from the Office of the Dean in 2017 as Director of Medical Doctorate Programs, Dr. Haning also served as the director of the University of Hawaii’s general psychiatry residency training program and associate chair for education of the Department of Psychiatry. He continues to share in the direction of the neuroscience curriculum for the Office of Medical Education. He is principal investigator for the Pacific Addiction Research Center (PARC). He is certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, and addiction medicine, and previously chaired the Examination Committee for Addiction Psychiatry of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has received several teaching awards, and has chaired a number of community service boards including the Life Foundation (AIDS service organization in Honolulu) and the Hawaii Program for Healthcare Professionals (advocacy for impaired physicians). Prior to his accession to the Presidency, Dr. Haning chaired the Publications Council and the Public Policy Council. He is the emeritus editor of the ASAM Weekly

In 2019, ASAM awarded Dr. Haning with the ASAM Annual Award for “his outstanding contributions to the growth and vitality of the society, for his leadership in the field and for his deep understanding of the art and science of addiction medicine.”

Most recently, Dr. Haning was appointed to the University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents. He also received the Charles S. Judd, Jr. ’38 Humanitarian Award, also known as the Hawaii Humanitarian Award, from Punahou School. The award is given to Punahou alumni who have made outstanding contributions to the state. The award has added personal meaning for Dr. Haning who studied under Charles Judd, Jr. MD, in medical school. 

Throughout his years treating addiction, Dr. Haning has found increasing value in his ASAM membership.

“Principally, it provided me with an organizational identity: it brought me into a tribe,” he said. “Individual efforts are not generally effective unless leveraged by a tribe, amplified as well as properly vetted. And, of course, it has provided me with the needed education to be of some use.”

When asked about his favorite part of treating addiction, he’s quick to answer, “Watching patients take off.” He said he finds it incredibly rewarding to play a role in their life’s new trajectory.

“Sometimes the people I see taking off into flight do so as a result of the efforts of my predecessors,” he said. “That is, other doctors before me got the patient going and all I am really doing is witnessing their ascent toward becoming the person they had wanted to be, back before they started using or drinking.”

Dr. Haning said there are numerous reasons why the next generation of medical professionals should learn more about addiction and take steps to become qualified to treat addiction.

“One selfish reason is because it is among the few chronic, progressive, relapsing disorders that is susceptible to treatment and even recovery,” he said. “It is honestly a harder job taking care of folks who cannot seem to get well. Certainly, there is that sub-population within those who have addiction, but if there is one lesson that comes out of the community-based programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, is that recovery is possible if there is the willingness to accept help.”


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