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American Society of Addiciton Medicine
Mar 28, 2024 Reporting from Rockville, MD
Two Decades Later, Dr. Kenneth Freedman is Still Finding Ways to Give Back
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Mar 28, 2024
It didn’t take long for Kenneth I. Freedman, MD, MS, MBA, FACP, AGAF, DFASAM, to see the value that ASAM offered him and others entering the field of addiction medicine. Since becoming a member in 1998, Dr. Freedman has served ASAM in multiple capacities. He has also contributed regularly to the Society since 2001, driven by his goal to give back.

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American Society of Addictin Medicine

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Two Decades Later, Dr. Kenneth Freedman is Still Finding Ways to Give Back

Kenneth I. Freedman, MD, MS, MBA, FACP, AGAF, DFASAM

It didn’t take long for Kenneth I. Freedman, MD, MS, MBA, FACP, AGAF, DFASAM, to see the value that ASAM offered him and others entering the field of addiction medicine.

Since becoming a member in 1998, Dr. Freedman has served ASAM in multiple capacities. He has also contributed regularly to the Society since 2001, driven by his goal to give back.

“I choose to donate money to organizations that are important to me,” he said. “I don't donate a lot of money to any specific organization, but in more recent years -- because of my stronger beliefs in the work of ASAM and what the organization has accomplished and is accomplishing -- I've increased my donations substantially.”

Finding ASAM

In 1995, Dr. Freedman started treating addiction as part of his practice at a hospital that offered acute psychiatric care, where patients could detox primarily from alcohol or opiates. He also spent a few hours a week working for a local methadone program.

“While working in the methadone program, I fell in love with the provision of care to folks with substance use disorders,” he said. “I found it very gratifying to help these folks, many of whom experienced adverse effects in their life related to their substance use, such as conditions like HIV and hepatitis, as well as incarceration and the disruption of their families. We were able to help many of these people help themselves and make a difference in their lives. Many of them were treated poorly by the healthcare system and given substandard care because of their addiction, and I felt that I should be providing them with equivalent -- if not better -- care, and they were often very grateful for that.”

In 1998, he started working full-time for the methadone program, which offered him a raise if he became certified in addiction medicine. He quickly joined ASAM and received his certification. The Connecticut chapter of ASAM formed during Dr. Freedman’s first ASAM meeting and he was selected to serve as its secretary/treasurer. He has served as an ASAM officer ever since. 

Throughout the years, Dr. Freedman said ASAM has helped advance his career in many ways.

“It certainly has helped me enhance my education regarding both the pathophysiology and treatment of patients with substance use disorders,” he said. “Secondly, I have made professional connections through ASAM that have provided me with employment opportunities. And thirdly, when I became a higher-level officer in ASAM, including president of my Connecticut chapter and regional director within New England, and then, treasurer nationally, those roles and titles helped increase my credibility not just within the addiction field but also outside of the addiction field.”

Dr. Freedman became ASAM’s National Treasurer and Finance Council Chair and the Quality Improvement Council Chair in 2019. He completed his second term as treasurer in April of 2023.

“My favorite part about that role was twofold,” he said. “One was being part of the executive committee and participating in high-level discussions regarding strategic planning for the organization. And secondly, specific to the role of the Treasurer, I very much enjoyed explaining our finances to the board at large, including our investment portfolio. I appreciated the opportunity to present complex financial matters in a manner that resonated with fellow board members, empowering them to make informed decisions pertaining to budgeting and finance.” 

He also served on The ASAM Criteria® Strategy Steering Committee and the CEO Search Committee. Previous roles he held have also included Regional III Director (2013-2018), Finance Committee member (2013-2023), Ethics Committee member (since 2015 and Chair 2018-2019), Quality Improvement Council member (since 2016), MA officer (Treasurer and Secretary), and CT officer (President, Vice-President, and Secretary/Treasurer).

Earlier, Dr. Freedman served as MA Public Health Hospitals’ system quality chief, public health hospital CMO (Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Boston), director of two outpatient MAT programs, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, and Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. 

He currently serves as medical director for both Aetna (a CVS Health Company) and The Recovery Research Network (TRRN). 

Dr. Freedman, who still actively treats addiction through TRRN, said the best part of doing so is seeing the ripple effect of one life changed. 

“It’s the fact that you can really make a difference in people's lives and help people to be healthier, to be better family members, better spouses, better parents, better grandparents,” he said, “And also to be better contributors to society.”

 

Funding the Future

Dr. Freedman, who is board-certified in addiction medicine, internal medicine, and gastroenterology, keeps memberships in four other medical associations. He said ASAM stands out from the rest. 

“From the first moment I walked into an ASAM meeting in 1998, I was struck by the way ASAM members truly enjoy the company of one another, and that people are genuinely happy to reconnect with their old colleagues, who become their friends,” he said. “A lot of us in the field of addiction have our own baggage -- myself included -- and when we walk into an ASAM meeting our baggage, whatever it may be -- whether it is known or not known by our colleagues -- it doesn't make a difference. We are all welcome and we learn from one another. At ASAM meetings, people seem to not just say hello and shake hands, they hug one another because they are truly happy to see each other.”

            Although ASAM members pay annual dues, Dr. Freedman, whom ASAM recognized as a Founding Donor of its Treat Ƶ Save Lives Fund in 2022, encourages them to give beyond maintaining their membership to help others advance their career in addiction medicine — and to help advance the field of addiction medicine itself. 

“First and foremost, the organization does a lot to encourage professional development,” he said. “Those funds help people during their residency or fellowship to go to our conferences and become more involved in the field. Secondly, our dues are very fair in comparison to other professional societies, and I know this from being on the Finance Committee. Our dues do not even cover the expenses related to running our organization, so having additional funds to be able to draw on, to engage in work that promotes advocacy and education in addition to professional development is very important.”

            The work ASAM is doing is more important than ever before, he said. The society will need the support of its members for years to come. 

“I found ASAM to be a very important organization in the field of addiction medicine, in terms of education, treatment, research, and advocacy,” he said. “It fills a niche that no other organization fills. It initially is broadly representative of all physicians in the field of addiction, not just addiction psychiatrists. Then in more recent years, it has expanded to include other addiction professionals. I think it is important for the fields of addiction medicine to have an organization devoted to advocacy from the perspective of the providers of the treatment.”