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American Society of Addiciton Medicine
May 6, 2024 Reporting from Rockville, MD
The Assignment that Changed Everything
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May 6, 2024
After finishing his psychiatry residency in 1996, Dr. Miller’s first assignment with the U.S. Air Force was at Andrews Air Force Base’s Tri Service Ƶ Recovery Center in Washington DC, the worldwide tertiary referral resource for substance use and addiction-related conditions in the Department of Defense.

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The Assignment that Changed Everything

Shannon C. Miller, MD, DFASAM, DLFAPA

Nearly 30 years ago, Shannon C. Miller, MD, DFASAM, DLFAPA began his Ƶ Medicine career.  

After finishing his psychiatry residency in 1996, Dr. Miller’s first assignment with the U.S. Air Force was at Andrews Air Force Base’s Tri Service Ƶ Recovery Center in Washington DC, the worldwide tertiary referral resource for substance use and addiction-related conditions in the Department of Defense.  

“We had all levels of addiction care, from detox, inpatient rehab, day hospital, clinic, and family recovery services, which was quite unique,” said Dr. Miller, now a retired Lieutenant Colonel. “We would bring in family members for a whole week. The Air Force had a medevac fleet of planes that are always in the sky moving around the globe, bringing sick and wounded anywhere they need to be for treatment, and that included moving people with addiction issues and their families to us. The base was a wonderful place to quickly learn about treating this illness. 

“It’s a challenging group to treat, but very rewarding when you see people make even small gains,” he continued. “It's fulfilling to help people make a difference in their lives. I fell in love with the field.” 

Soon after he started treating addiction, Dr. Miller attended ASAM’s Annual Conference in Washington DC, including the Review Course and State of the Art Course, and eventually took the ASAM certification exam.  

“ASAM was a super welcoming group of people with highly educational conferences,” he said. “I learned a ton in those formative years. All in all, participating in ASAM was a wonderful experience, and it remains that way today.” 

Opportunities to Influence 

Today, Dr. Miller works for the Mental Health Service, VA Medical Center in Dayton/Middletown, Ohio. He’s also a clinical professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, and Population and Public Health Sciences, for the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University in Dayton. He is board certified in Psychiatry and Ƶ Medicine.  

Dr. Miller, past founding co-editor of ASAM’s Journal of Ƶ Medicine, is the senior editor of The ASAM Principles of Ƶ Medicine textbook. He started working on the textbook by providing feedback on the Second and Third Editions as part of his having read every page of those textbooks in preparation for the ASAM certification exam. 

“I was at ASAM’s Review Course when Bonnie Wilford encouraged people to give feedback on the textbooks,” he recalled. “I had just read it, so I sent my feedback to her. At some point before the Fourth Edition, she recruited me on to be one of the editors and that was my start with the principles.” He served as an Associate Editor on the fourth and fifth editions. 

Dr. Miller became senior editor of the textbook’s sixth edition. In this role, he led the work on three sections of the book and led the effort to reduce stigmatizing language throughout the publication: a first in the field. Most recently, he served as senior editor of The ASAM Principles of Ƶ Medicine, Seventh Edition, which is available in electronic and print formats. Dr. Miller has given 20 years of his time to these four textbooks.  

“It’s a labor of love,” he said. “For several years, I spent at least an hour a night for at least six days a week and many times half a day or two throughout the week. I’m dedicated to this work, as is everybody else on the team.” 

The fully reimagined resource integrates the latest advancements and research in addiction medicine. More than 350 medical, research, and public health experts contributed to the volume, which is more than 2,000 pages. 

“It's the largest addiction medicine textbook in the world,” he said. “Probably the most read one. I’m proud of the team that came together to lend their expertise to this book. There's a lot of shared work. The content not only covers the foundational building blocks of addiction medicine, but it also includes many cutting-edge topics presented in a non-stigmatizing, medically precise way, which is unique in the field of addiction medicine.” 

In addition to Dr. Miller, the editors include Richard N. Rosenthal, MD, MA, DLFAPA, DFAAAP, F; Sharon Levy MD, MPH, FASAM, FAAP; Andrew J. Saxon, MD, FASAM; Jeanette M. Tetrault, MD, FACP, FASAM; and Sarah E. Wakeman, MD, FASAM. 

Throughout the production of the textbook, diversity, equity, and inclusion were woven into almost every chapter. Dr. Miller is delighted that the textbook is the first edition to be printed in full color. The electronic version of the textbook allows users to highlight and mark up pages, as well as add their personal touch to it using their handheld device.  

“It’s really important when it comes to diagrams, as well as brain scans,” he said. “I’m very excited about that as well.” 

The ASAM Difference 

Looking back on his career in addiction medicine, Dr. Miller still finds the field incredibly interesting and rewarding. The best part of working in addiction medicine, he added, is seeing patients make healthy changes in their lives.  

“That may not mean completely stopping whatever substance the patient is addicted to,” he said. “It might mean just being able to reduce their use or cut down and improve their functioning. As they say, recovery is not an event, it's a process, and so being able to be there with the patient during that long process and gradually see them grow happier and having their life more in balance is very fulfilling.” 

Dr. Miller said ASAM has helped him grow by gaining both knowledge and experience. He said his time as Director of the ASAM Review Course, Director of the State of the Art Course, founding and serving as Editor of ASAM’s Journal of Ƶ Medicine for a decade, and as a lead editor for ASAM’s Principles of Ƶ Medicine for several decades provided him with the opportunity to influence other addiction medicine specialists, especially in stigmatizing language.  

He also served as Program Director for one of the first ten Ƶ Medicine fellowships to be accredited by what was then the American Board of Ƶ Medicine. “ASAM has helped me find education, and has connected me to opportunities to teach and opportunities to influence the field,” he said. “Through fellowship training programs, we learn from each other about how to better educate our fellows, make them better physicians, which makes us better physicians ourselves. Across the board, I’m very appreciative of all those experiences. It’s nice to see younger people coming into ASAM to receive those same opportunities.” 

When it comes to an organization that charges reasonable membership dues and offers the greatest value, Dr. Miller said ASAM is among the best. Its educational conferences, networking opportunities, and various textbook offerings, he added, are all top-notch.  

“There is a lot you can get out of it,” he said. “As with anything else, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it, but it's just a wonderful group of people who care so much about our patients, and genuinely care about each other and who help each other learn grow. It's just a great feeling.” 

Dr. Miller said he would encourage ASAM members to become more involved in the Society. By doing so, he added, they’ll advance their career and the field of addiction medicine.  

“You'll learn more about the field, which helps you do a better job taking care of your patients,” he said. “You'll learn more about the science of what we do. You'll learn about opportunities to influence the field. Also, ASAM is very involved politically so you'll learn how to participate there if you choose to. Finally, you’ll have many opportunities to connect with other members. You can support them and, in turn, they can support you.”