Dr. Gitlow Looks Back and Forward as Presidency Ends

D1_2015-Gitlow

Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA

After serving almost four years as ASAM President, Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA, will hand the leadership of the Society to President-Elect R. Jeffrey Goldsmith, MD, DLFAPA, FASAM, at the end of the Annual Conference. It is a transition he has been preparing for, but with mixed emotions.

“The experience has been wonderful. I have had a great time. I would not put anybody through it, but I would be happy to do a couple more years of it,” Dr. Gitlow said with a laugh as he reflected on his time in office. “It’s been a fascinating experience, but one I enjoyed. I hope the organization enjoyed my experience as well.”

To smooth the transition, Dr. Gitlow has tried to involve Dr. Goldsmith and the incoming President-Elect, Kelly Clark, MD, MBA, FASAM, in ASAM governance, but he also recognizes they will need to put their imprints on the organization during their terms in office. (See related story.)

“In any job, the mark of a good leader is not only to lead, but to make sure the organization is prepared and the next leader is prepared for the transition. Mentorship is a critical part of any leader’s activities,” Dr. Gitlow said. “I have worked closely with Jeff and Kelly to ensure they are strong and able to carry out all the duties that are involved in leading the organization. Both have wonderful strengths and superb ideas they will be implementing in the coming years. I think the Society will be in excellent hands.”

Although the President is the face of ASAM, its direction is set by the Board of Directors, which develops a strategic plan.

“The president’s role is to carry out that plan with the help of a strong staff, officers, board, and chapter leadership,” Dr. Gitlow said. “What the president’s own opinions are become somewhat subdued. The president’s role is to carry out the will of the board, and ultimately the membership.

“If everything were perfect, no one would know the presidents had changed because the will of the organization continues to get carried out. In truth, it’s a mixture. Each person tends to focus on areas they know best or think are most important.”

Dr. Gitlow said his focus has been on public policy issues—eliminating the cap on buprenorphine use, stressing ASAM’s positions on marijuana, and taking public positions on the use of alcohol and tobacco.

“Jeff has a wonderful background in terms of educational approaches, and I think he will draw upon that. That is a great opportunity,” Dr. Gitlow said. “We have done a lot to transition from an old school approach in medical education, and now we are starting to open doors to new approaches. I think we will see Jeff’s mark on many of those activities.

“Kelly is quite different from Jeff and me. She, too, will pick different areas of focus. The order of things in going from the last president to me, to Jeff, and to Kelly is great because all of us have different outlooks and opinions that we will be utilizing.”

Looking back on his time in office, Dr. Gitlow said ASAM has had many “front-page” issues to contend with, such as the opioid epidemic, the push to legalize marijuana, and the move to team approaches to care driven by the Affordable Care Act.

“The need for greater attention to this particular medical specialty is key,” he said. “We are opening our doors to nonphysician clinicians. That has been a transition for us and the country. We are looking forward to the opportunity to bring information from the medical specialty to non-physician clinicians more strongly than in the past. That transition has been one the organization is going through. Jeff coming in as president is perfect timing on that front because of the educational need and opportunity.”