About Us

Yngvild K. Olsen, MD, MPH, FASAM

Candidate for President-Elect

Biography and Statement

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1. What are your greatest contributions to ASAM and the field of addiction medicine?

As Chair of the Public Policy Committee, Secretary, and now Vice President of ASAM, I have worked to bring our collective knowledge and training to the front lines of medical practice, policy change, and public understanding. Over the last several years, I have led briefings for White House officials, testified before Congress, and represented ASAM at numerous professional and public events. One of my key messages in all of these settings is the vital importance of the field of addiction medicine to ending the addiction and overdose crisis. Last year, I chaired the task force that updated ASAM’s definition of addiction, integrating insights from basic science with clinical understanding. Since March 2020, I have chaired the Caring for Patients During COVID Taskforce. I am extremely proud of the 14 guidance documents and other work produced in record time by this group of over 40 dedicated ASAM members and staff.. Throughout my career, my work with ASAM has inspired me to confront the stigma that still exists on addiction and its treatment. In essays in medical journals, speeches to diverse audiences, and a recent book project, I have called for people with addiction to be seen as people first. I have urged the healthcare system to stop holding addiction at arm’s length and embrace lifesaving care. Most of all, I have supported our field’s efforts to be at the center of the national conversation on addiction, which is right where we belong, during COVID and beyond.

2. How would your election benefit ASAM and the field of addiction medicine?

I first joined ASAM as a medical student in 1996, eager to understand what could be done to help the often-neglected patients I had cared for on the wards with addiction. At each step of my career in addiction medicine, the wisdom, kindness, and generosity of ASAM members from around the country have inspired me. I would be honored to repay this debt by leading ASAM into the future as President-Elect. With the national focus on addiction and overdose, heightened even more due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I envision ASAM working to spread its expertise across the country. I will fight for our voice to be heard not only in specialty addiction treatment settings, but also in hospitals, emergency departments, trauma centers, primary care and specialty medical and surgical clinics, outpatient mental health centers, public health departments, and correctional settings. I will work to ensure that when payers make decisions, ASAM will be in the room. I will help empower every ASAM member to stand for compassion and care in community meeting rooms, town halls, city and county councils, state legislatures, and the halls of Congress – whether in person or virtual. For addiction medicine specialists, this is our moment, our time to bring our collective experience and expertise to the point of impact. ASAM’s vision statement describes “a future when addiction, prevention, treatment, remission, and recovery are accessible to all, and profoundly improve the health of all people.” Together, we can make this vision a reality.

Biographical Sketch

Yngvild Olsen, MD, MPH, is the Medical Director for the Institutes for Behavior Resources Inc/REACH Health Services, a comprehensive outpatient addiction treatment center in Baltimore City that also serves as a training site for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers. After graduating from Harvard Medical School and training in internal medicine with an additional year as Primary Care Chief Resident at Boston Medical Center, Dr. Olsen completed a fellowship in General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. During her fellowship, she earned a Masters in Public Health degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Olsen has dedicated her career to caring for and advocating for people with addiction. Her accomplishments include establishing a comprehensive clinical service for patients with substance use disorders at Johns Hopkins Hospital (as medical director for outpatient treatment services), creating an integrated case management and linkage service for incarcerated individuals with co-occurring substance use and mental health (as the deputy health officer for the Harford County Health Department), and leading quality efforts for opioid treatment programs in the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland (as medical director of the city behavioral health authority and later as a clinical consultant to the state health department).

In addition, Dr. Olsen he has provided medical consultation to numerous local, state, and federal entities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. A particular focus of Dr. Olsen’s career has been to reduce the stigma on addiction and its treatment through compassionate care and passionate advocacy. After writing about the stigma on treatment for opioid use disorder in the Journal of the American Medical Association, she received the Dole-Nyswander award from the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence. She speaks frequently about addiction and stigma before professional and lay audiences and serves on the board of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Maryland. To reach the general public, in 2019, she co-authored The Opioid Epidemic: What Everyone Needs to Know, published by Oxford University Press.

Dr. Olsen achieved ASAM certification in 2004, transitioning to board certification through ABAM in 2009. Central to her career as an addiction medicine physician has been her service to ASAM. In addition to many years of work in the Maryland (now Maryland/DC) chapter, and her designation as a Distinguished Fellow, Dr. Olsen has served as Chair of the Public Policy Committee, Secretary, and now Vice President of the ASAM Board. In addition, since March, 2020, she has served as Chair of the Caring for Patients During COVID Taskforce, leading the rapid development and update of 14 guidance documents to ensure ongoing access to appropriate care for people with substance use disorders during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.