The University of Tennessee College of Medicine’s Center for Addiction Science Recognized as First Center of Excellence in Addiction Medicine in the Country

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Dr. Daniel Sumrok, director of the Center for Addiction Science in the College of Medicine at UT Health Science Center, has decades of knowledge and experience in treating the devastating consequences of substance abuse. (Photo by Jane Pate, UTHSC)

The University of Tennessee College of Medicine’s Center for Addiction Science was recognized today as the first Center of Excellence In Addiction Medicine by The Addiction Medicine Foundation.

The Center for Addiction Science was founded to address the untreated addiction epidemic, not only in Memphis, but across the country. The center provides clinical treatment services including cognitive behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, motivational enhancement therapy and 12-step program facilitation across all demographics. The center is also training physicians to offer alternate forms of pain therapy to avoid over-prescription of opioids.

“As a medical school dedicated to serving the Memphis community, it is our belief that we must make a difference and be an essential part of the health care fabric of our city,” said David Stern, MD, Robert Kaplan Executive Dean of the College of Medicine and vice chancellor for Clinical Affairs at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). “We recognized the unmet addiction need, and we are working to address it head on, both in our region and nationwide.”

The Center of Excellence designation from The Addiction Medicine Foundation, a national organization that accredits physician training in addiction medicine, puts the center at the forefront of its field — as the first in the country to bring together clinical care, research, education and community outreach to address addiction and deadly substance use.

“The UT College of Medicine has emerged as the nation’s first integrated addiction model,” said Kevin Kunz, MD, MPH, executive vice president of The Addiction Medicine Foundation. “There are locations and fellowships where all the elements exist, yet not in a unified fashion and not interactive. These components, even when they all exist at one institution, are often silos of excellence. UT College of Medicine’s Center for Addiction Science offers all the necessary elements for success, and will serve as a model for future centers across the country.”

The combination of the harmful effects of addiction, including alcohol and nicotine use, represent the leading cause of death in Tennessee. More than 1,263 Tennesseans died from opioid overdose in 2014, according to the most recent figures from the Tennessee Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Substance abuse places an extraordinary burden on medical, social and financial sectors in Tennessee,” Dr. Stern said. “We have evidence-based treatment interventions that help improve and save lives. The Center for Addiction Science makes those services available to anyone.”

“Addiction is an equal-opportunity illness,” said Daniel Sumrok, MD, director of the Center for Addiction Science at UTHSC. “It does not discriminate. The picture of addiction is much different now than it was even a decade ago. Anyone can become addicted to painkillers, and we are doing our part to reduce that dependency rate.”

Leveraging the strengths of an academic medical center, a new addiction medicine fellowship through the Center for Addiction Science trains physicians and health care professionals in evidence-based protocols to better recognize, diagnose, treat and prevent addiction. Multidisciplinary research is also underway, with particular focus on neonatal abstinence syndrome, which affects newborns exposed to addictive drugs in the womb.

“This recognition is a great credit to our team and our corporate partners,” Dr. Sumrok said. “We are committed to growing the fully-integrated model we have defined.”

The UT Center for Addiction Science, managed by University Clinical Health, universityclinicalhealth.com, is located at 1325 Eastmoreland Avenue, Suite 440, and the main phone number is (901) 866-8630.