New fellowship helps train providers interested in addiction medicine

By Francie Williamson, Communications Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry

Providers interested in receiving extra training to treat substance use disorders and addiction have a new option at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Last year, the Department of Psychiatry established the Addiction Medicine Fellowship after receiving a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the federal Health Resources Services Administration.

The goal is to fund two positions per year, but for the first year, there was only enough time to fill one position, says Alison Lynch, MD, clinical professor for psychiatry and director of addiction medicine at UI Hospitals & Clinics.

Lynch says the opioid epidemic really shined a light on addiction as a major health problem.

“Over the last, probably, 20 years, addiction medicine has been building as a movement,” Lynch says.

In 2015, the American Board of Medical Specialties officially recognized addiction medicine as a subspecialty, and in 2017, the American College of Academic Addiction Medicine began accrediting fellowships.

Lynch says adding the fellowship at UI Hospitals & Clinics seemed like a great way to generate more clinicians in the addiction medicine field.

“This is the only place in Iowa that has such a fellowship,” Lynch says, adding there are very few providers in the state who are board-certified in addiction medicine.

Lynch says there are about 70 academic medical centers across the United States offering addiction medicine fellowships, but until now the closest places to Iowa offering such training opportunities were in Madison, Wis., Minneapolis, St. Louis and Kansas City.

An interdisciplinary approach

The new addiction medicine fellowship draws on faculty not just from the Department of Psychiatry but also the Departments of Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine and Anesthesia.

That is reflective of the fact that addiction medicine is an interdisciplinary practice, Lynch says. Because of this, those who apply to the fellowship don’t need to have completed residencies in psychiatry.

“I’d love to get some people from other specialties into our fellowship over the next couple of years,” Lynch says. “It would be really cool to get a pediatrician, or an obstetrician or emergency medicine physician or even an anesthesiologist or family medicine provider.”

The inaugural addiction medicine fellow, Allister Wilton, MD, came directly from the internal medicine/psychiatry residency program at UI Hospitals & Clinics.

“When I heard we were starting a new addiction fellowship, it seemed like a unique opportunity to be part of a formative process,” Wilton says.

Wilton says he developed an interest in addiction medicine during medical school and residency. During his addiction medicine fellowship, Wilton spent time in the UI pain medicine clinic, and now plans to pursue more training in that subspecialty as well.

“I have long found the intersection of these two populations fascinating, and my hope is by pursuing training in both I will be able to bring insight from both areas to enhance the treatment of these populations,” Wilton says.

Lynch says by the end of the fellowship, Wilton will be board-certified in addiction medicine.

The future of the fellowship

Andrea Weber, MD, assistant director of addiction medicine at UI Hospitals & Clinics, says one of the requirements of the fellowship was the establishment of a number of didactic lectures, which have been made available to anyone who is interested in learning more about addiction medicine.

“I think it surprised me how excited other people were to partake in that curriculum,” Weber says. “We have many residents who are constantly coming into our Zoom didactics that aren’t even on rotation with us or haven’t even done addiction medicine.”

“And faculty!” Lynch says, adding “how many faculty members are coming is a surprise. There have been some great talks.”

Lynch and Weber are hoping to have two fellows next year. Details on how to apply, as well as key dates, are online. 

“We’re looking for people who are enthusiastic about working with this patient population and are committed to high quality care and positive medical and social outcomes,” Lynch says.

Friday, January 22, 2021