About Us

Ross Sullivan, MD, FASAM

Candidate for Region I Director

Biography and Statement

sullivan-asam-election-2020

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

I don’t remember her name, but when I was a resident, still learning how to navigate our complex medical system, I had a young patient that came into the ED looking for help with her opioid use disorder. My attending instructed me to give the patient some anti-nausea medication and a clonidine. As I worked the phone for what seemed like hours to find her follow up, I was further instructed to give the patient a list of “follow-up” clinics and discharge her. Unfortunately, I did what I was told. On my next shift several days later, the patient returned in cardio-pulmonary arrest, and died in that very ED I just discharged her from.

It is with that lesson, and many other that I learned throughout my life, that I decided to approach the emergency department patient with a different approach; one that is dedicated on treating all patients, especially those with Opioid use disorder with the same respect and importance as any other disease.

Since 2016, I started treated patients in our ED with buprenorphine for withdrawal. In no time, the number of patients swelled. I educated residents and attendings on giving buprenorphine with withdrawal, and soon started seeing them back in the ED for further assessment.

When this became too robust to handle in an ED department, I fought and begged for clinic space to start one of New York States first ED- Bridge clinics; where patients could be given buprenorphine in the ED, and then promptly referred to an ED clinic for further treatment and care. In the clinic, patients not only received MAT prescriptions, but also were given care, as human beings deserving the attention and respect that our medical system so often refuses to provide these people. Patients are provided means to get insurance, information on housing, education, food, and, linkage to community treatment centers.

With this being said, I believe the greatest contribution to NYSAM/ASAM and addition medicine is my ability to see challenges in my community and address it in a way that has not been done before. I was repeatedly told I couldn’t do this, and that this model would never work; I initially was given no funding, no room, and no support. One by one, the patients found me, and eventually critics started supporting me.

To date, we have seen and helped over 600 patients. We have gained the attention of not only local treatment providers and elected officials, but also state wide, including OASAS (Office of Addiction Services and Support) and the Department of Health. NYSAM has supported my passion, and have supported me giving multiple lectures across the state on the subject. Both OASAS and the DOH have included me in policies and educations directed towards the treatment of OUD emergency patients as well as legislations promoting access to care and medications on an emergent basis, including a DOH guideline requiring all NYS EDs to provide buprenorphine and/or direct linkage to treatment upon discharge. Addiction medicine has proven to be the ultimate art of medicine; I am proud and humbled that my passion has been able to save lives and drive innovation.

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

My election to ASAM would benefit the field of addiction medicine in several ways. Tangibly, as an emergency physician, I have seen many non-emergency physicians trying to drive drug use disorder treatment with-in the ED. In addition, the Emergency Department is often the aiming point for government and DOH medical oversite. Understanding the Emergency Department as an operation, as well as understanding the emergency medical community is paramount to improving and understanding addiction care.

I was able to establish an Opioid Emergency Bridge Clinic; paramount to this was understanding the ED provider and environment. The Opioid Bridge Clinic began with myself giving single dose buprenorphine in the ED, then prescriptions with ED follow-up. As this began to grow, so did the need for growth. I attended no less than 1000 meetings, panels, grant seminars, etc. I had doors closed in my face, and mats pulled out from underneath me. But, with never taking ‘no’ for an answer, hard work, and most importantly surrounding myself with those who shared my passion, the Upstate Opioid Bridge clinic became a vital foundation of the community where people could begin their recovery.

I would very much like to use my experience to help shape personal, organizational, and community health systems (especially emergency based) that believe they cannot accomplish this level of change. In addition, I would like to help those who believe they can but do not know where to begin.

What I would bring to ASAM and the field of addiction medicine is an innovative way of thinking with regard to addiction care. I would bring a passion and drive, one that is underscored in meeting patients where they are at. This epidemic is of such huge proportions, yet our front lines are not prepared to handle it.

I cannot imagine the courage it takes for someone to seek treatment, but I do know the hard work it takes to put together a new place to do so.

In conclusion, the field of addiction is just not medical, it’s personal on many levels. I bring this care and compassion with me every day to work.

I would be honored to be an ASAM delegate.

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Sullivan completed his medical school education at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. After, he entered and finished a residency in Emergency Medicine at the same hospital. Dr. Sullivan then completed a medical toxicology fellowship at the SUNY Upstate Poison Control Center and SUNY Upstate Emergency Department. Dr. Sullivan is also board certified in Addiction Medicine. Dr. Sullivan is currently the fellowship director of the medical toxicology fellowship. He also is the director of the Upstate Emergency Medicine Opioid Bridge Clinic; the aim of this program is to initiate buprenorphine in the ED with prompt referral to an ED based clinic where patients are treated and referred to community settings. Dr. Sullivan is also the medical director for Helio Health, a community not-for-profit that offers substance use and psychiatric treatment.

Dr. Sullivan has authored several publications related to overdose and addiction, including “Cardiac conduction disturbance after loperamide abuse”, “Synthetic Cannabinoid Withdrawal”, “Baclofen overdose mimicking brain death”, and “A randomized usability assessment of simulated naloxone administration by community members.” Dr. Sullivan currently is a member of the Medical Advisory Panel to NY-OASAS (Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse), the NY-DOH buprenorphine work group, as well as a member of his local drug-task force.