About Us

Aleksandra Zgierska, MD, PhD, DFASAM

Candidate for Secretary

Biography and Statement

zgierska-asam-election-2020

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

I have been involved in ASAM and its Wisconsin Chapter, WISAM, since 2006. My work with both WISAM and ASAM documents my skills, commitment and passion, which would translate well toward advancing the ASAM’s mission and vision in my role as Secretary.

Under my leadership as a WISAM’s Officer, the Chapter has substantially grown, tripling its membership. After becoming President in 2015, I focused on expanding the WISAM’s scope and reach, and promoting interdisciplinary, state-wide collaboration and education to improve addiction treatment access and outcomes in Wisconsin. Toward this goal, WISAM started monthly “drop-in” teleconferences, open to members and non-members, that have steadily grown, reaching nearly 150 Wisconsin clinicians; expanded its conference from a half-day gathering to an annual 2-3 day educational event with up to 200 attendees from diverse professional backgrounds; ensured representation on the major state-level decision-making and policy-setting groups; and hired a professional management company to support Chapter’s continued growth. On the national level, since 2016 I have served as a member of the ASAM Public Policy Committee, Annual Conference Program Planning Committee and Science Initiative Workgroup. In 2017, I became Co-Chair for the ASAM Chapters’ Council and an ex officio member of the ASAM Board of Directors. My experience in leading the WISAM and serving on the ASAM Committees, Chapters’ Council and the Board of Directors have given me an understanding of the inner-workings of the Society, of not-for-profit volunteer board operations, and of the external forces, which can impact the Society.

Contributions to the Field of Addiction Medicine:
As an academic family medicine and addiction medicine physician, and a tenured faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), I have been actively engaged in clinical care, research, advocacy and education of the public, and health care and other professionals to reduce the stigma of addiction and improve treatment access and outcomes among patients with addiction. Each of these activities strengthens the field of addiction medicine and, by extension, is beneficial to ASAM.

With close to 100 publications and numerous presentations, I inform a rich clinical experience with an evidence-based approach to educational activities, advocacy patient care and policy work. The addiction and pain care related curricula I developed have been implemented locally and by the Veterans Administration (VA) as a part of the VA’s Whole Health project. My federally-funded research, rooted in evidenced-based care for addiction and chronic pain, complements my clinical practice. A recent grant, funded by the NIH HEAL Initiative, will focus on developing research protocols for engaging pregnant women who use drugs, a clinical population which is particularly affected by addiction-related stigma and fear of legal consequences. I have led community-engagement studies aimed at reducing stigma and increasing patient access to addiction care. They have included 1) a Madison-based, city-wide initiative with law enforcement to divert offenders who committed a minor, drug use-related crime from criminal justice to addiction treatment; 2) the ED2Recovery program linking adults admitted to the Wisconsin emergency departments for an overdose to peer support to prevent a repeat overdose; and 3) Wisconsin Voices for Recovery, a state-wide network of recovery organizations and approximately 24,000 individual members to promote recovery and peer services as a means toward recovery. I have served on numerous local, state and national task forces, committees and workgroups; in these contexts, I have participated in the development of professional guidelines and policies, and advocated for alignment of legislative efforts with evidence-based approaches to addiction care.

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

The need for ASAM to speak with a strong, clear voice has never been greater. ASAM has responded with a rapidly growing membership, and increased scope and influence in national clinical, scientific, policy and legislative debates. As Secretary, I have the experience, drive and track record to contribute to each. I am passionate about bringing together the perspectives of diverse stakeholders, including individual clinicians and state chapters, decreasing addiction-associated stigma, and working toward and advocating for evidence-based addiction care. My experience as a clinician, educator, researcher, and a member of the WISAM (Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine) and ASAM Boards of Directors and several committees, and with activities that WISAM successfully implemented under my leadership, is directly applicable to the responsibilities of the ASAM Secretary. I would actively build upon these achievements and skills to continue advancing the ASAM’s mission and vision.

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Aleksandra Zgierska has focused her career on advancing practice, research, education and advocacy in addiction medicine. She is a tenured Professor of Family and Community Medicine, Public Health Sciences and Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, and Vice Chair of Research at the Penn State Department of Family and Community Medicine.

She earned MD and PhD degrees in Warsaw, Poland before moving to Madison, WI in 1999, where she completed a family medicine residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). She then embarked on a NIH-funded research fellowship and K-23 career development award at the UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. She served as the UW faculty member for a decade (2009-2019), teaching students, residents, fellows in the UW addiction medicine, pain medicine and T32 research fellowships, and peers. She lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania with her husband David and their two children, two dogs, a fish and numerous plants.

Dr. Zgierska is board-certified in family medicine and addiction medicine (American Board of Preventive Medicine) and provides both primary and addiction care. Her educational efforts and federally-funded research focus on the prevention and treatment of addiction, especially when it involves opioids, and on improving outcomes in chronic pain. She has served on numerous local, state and national task forces, committees and workgroups, participating in the development of professional guidelines and policies, and advocating for aligning legislative efforts with evidence-based approach to addiction care.

Dr. Zgierska is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. She has been involved in ASAM and its Wisconsin Chapter, WISAM, since 2006. She has served on the WISAM Board of Directors for 8 years, including 2 years as President. She has served as Vice-Chair for the ASAM’s Chapters’ Council and an ex officio member of the ASAM Board of Directors since 2017, and as a member of the ASAM’s Public Policy Committee, Science Initiative Workgroup, Women and Addictions, and the Annual Conference Program Planning Committee. Dr. Zgierska’s values are consistent with those of ASAM, and her experience, commitment and passion can serve to further the ASAM’s mission and vision.