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Leadership Team

SAM is governed by a board of directors, who serve to advance public health and safety by championing our four main objectives.

mug-kennedyBorn to Virginia Joan Kennedy and U.S. Sen. Edward “Ted” Moore Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 1967, Patrick Joseph Kennedy, has carved out a respected name for himself in American politics and mental-health advocacy.

He became the youngest member of his family to hold elected office when, in 1988, he won election to the Rhode Island House of Representatives at age 21. He received a bachelor’s degree from Providence College three years later. After serving two terms in the Rhode Island state house, Mr. Kennedy went on to serve 16 years a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving Rhode Island’s First District.

During his time in Washington, D.C., Mr. Kennedy — who has openly discussed his own lifelong struggles with depression and bipolar disorder — authored and co-sponsored dozens of bills to increase understanding and treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act, the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act and the COMBAT PTSD Act. In 2008, Mr. Kennedy drove his passion for mental health research and advocacy into the spotlight once again, when he co-authored and served as the lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act. The legislation, which was the largest he and his father worked on together, provides tens of millions of Americans access to mental health treatment to which they previously were denied.

Soon after his father’s death in 2010, Mr. Kennedy made the difficult decision not to seek re-election to keep his eyes on a larger and more personal goal. That year, he co-founded The Next Frontier Campaign: One Mind for Research. The campaign — and Mr. Kennedy — are dedicated to supporting dramatic enhancements in funding and collaboration in research across all brain disorders.

In addition to his work with One Mind for Research, Mr. Kennedy strives to live out the call of his uncle — President John F. Kennedy — who urged Americans to give back to their country. So, he remains focused on changing national conversations about mental health. He serves as a board member of Best Buddies and as a member of the board of trustees of Bradley Hospital in East Providence, R.I., where he hopes to further his role as an advocate of mental health research and services. With hopes of educating younger generations about mental health and inspiring them to champion its causes, Mr. Kennedy also speaks as a visiting professor at Rutgers and Brown universities and serves on the national advisory committee for Active Minds, an organization focused on advancing and improving mental health on college campuses.

mug-frumDavid Frum is a Canadian-American journalist whose politically conservative perspective has shaped the reporting and editorial stances of some of the world’s most prominent news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, National Post, New York Times, Daily Telegraph and CNN.

After earning a law degree from Harvard University, Mr. Frum worked as a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. In 2000, he was appointed to serve President George W. Bush as a speechwriter on economics.

In 2009, Mr. Frum launched a dynamic political website aimed at attracting younger readers. In 2012, that site was merged into The Daily Beast, where Mr. Frum continues blogging. He is also the author of seven books, including his first novel, Patriots, which was published in April 2012.

mug-richterKimber Richter is a Professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Kansas.

Her research is focused on treating tobacco dependence and training health professionals to incorporate tobacco treatment into their clinical practice. She is clinical director of the University of Kansas Hospital’s highly successful tobacco-treatment program, UKanQuit at KUMed. Her research projects — many of which have received funding from the National Institutes of Health — include treating rural smokers and understanding the overlap in tobacco and other drug dependence.

mug-thurstoneDr. Christian Thurstone is one of fewer than three dozen physicians in the United States who are board certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry.

He is medical director of one of Colorado’s largest youth substance-abuse-treatment clinics and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver, where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction and serves as director of medical training for the university’s addiction-medicine fellowship program. Dr. Thurstone has completed medical training at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and UCD. In 2010, he completed five years of mentored research training through the National Institute on Drug Abuse/American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry K12 Research Program in Substance Abuse. He is also a past president of the Colorado Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Society.

In June 2012, the United States Congress awarded him another title: U.S. Army Major. He is honored to treat American service members who need mental healthcare as an Army Reserves officer in the Combat Stress Unit of the 807th Medical Command.

Dr. Thurstone is a fluent Spanish speaker and enjoys working with many of his young patients and their families in his second language.

Teens in Colorado and throughout metro Chicago call him Dr. T, the name under which he writes a weekly advice column for The Tribune Co.-owned student newspaper, The Mash.

Dr. T likes to talk tennis. He plays his favorite sport competitively and is ranked among the top 15 players in the United States Tennis Association’s Men’s 40s Division — which helps him connect with the top national athletes he treats as a physician for an NFL team.

When he’s not in the office, you stand a good chance of finding him on a tennis court. You can also find him online at


Dubbed the “quarterback” of the new anti-drug movement by Salon Magazine, Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D has over 18 years of experience working on drug policy. Dr. Sabet is the Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and an Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. With Patrick J. Kennedy, he is the co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). He is also a policy consultant to numerous domestic and international organizations through his company, the Policy Solutions Lab. His current clients include the United Nations, where he holds a senior advisor position at the Italy-based United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), and other governmental and non-governmental organizations. He also recently served as the only non medical doctor on the writing committee establishing the official position on marijuana legalization for the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

From 2009-2011, he served in the Obama Administration as the Senior Advisor to Director Kerlikowske at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Representing his non-partisan commitment to drug policy, he previously worked on research, policy and speech writing at ONDCP in 2000 and from 2003-2004 in the Clinton and Bush Administrations, respectively. He remains the only staff member at ONDCP to hold a political appointment in both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

Dr. Sabet is a regular contributor to opinion-editorial pages worldwide, including the Washington Post, Huffington Post, New York Times, Vancouver Sun, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, CNN, CNBC, and more than a dozen other media outlets. His first editorial since leaving ONDCP, published in the Los Angeles Times in September of 2011, earned him a “Five Best Columns” distinction by The Atlantic.

In his most recent senior position at ONDCP, Dr. Sabet advised Director Kerlikowske on all matters affecting priorities, policies, and programs of the National Drug Control Strategy. He was one of three main writers of President Obama’s first National Drug Control Strategy, and his portfolio included leading the office’s efforts on marijuana policy, legalization issues, international demand reduction, drugged driving, and synthetic drug (e.g. “Spice” and “Bath Salts”) policy. Dr. Sabet represented ONDCP in numerous meetings and conferences, and played a key role in the Administration’s international drug legislative and diplomatic efforts at the United Nations.

Dr. Sabet has published widely in peer-reviewed journals and books on the topics of drug policy, cocaine sentencing, legalization, marijuana decriminalization, medical marijuana, addiction treatment, drug prevention, crime, law enforcement, and other issues. Since consulting in the Fall of 2011, he has been quoted in over 15,000 news stories relating to drug policy. Dr. Sabet first offered testimony on drug policy to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 1996.

As a Marshall Scholar, he received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Social Policy at Oxford University and B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife, Shahrzad, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University.





Sharon Levy is a board-certified Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She also has a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Levy is the director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, where she has evaluated and treated hundreds of adolescents with substance use disorders.

She has published extensively on the outpatient management of substance-use disorders in adolescents, including screening and brief advice in primary care, the use of drug testing and the outpatient management of opioid dependent adolescents. She is the principal investigator of the SAMHSA-funded medical residency SBIRT project at Children’s Hospital Boston and an NIAAA-funded study validating the youth alcohol screening tool in a population of youth with chronic medial illness.

Dr. Levy currently serves as the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse.

gitlowAfter twenty-five years of medical policy development within the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates, Stuart Gitlow is the incoming President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Dr. Gitlow, an Associate Clinical Professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, is the Executive Director of the Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addictive Disease, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of physicians choosing to enter the field of addiction medicine.

Dr. Gitlow’s textbook, Substance Use Disorders: A Practical Guide, has been used as the primary source for classes taught at Columbia, Dartmouth, and Brown. Starting with his days as a News Editor at his college newspaper at MIT, Dr. Gitlow has written extensively, with regular columns in Counselor magazine and multiple chapters in standard texts throughout the field of addictive disease. He has helped author numerous white papers issued from the AMA’s Council of Science and Public Health, on which he has served for five years.

Board certified in General, Addiction, and Forensic Psychiatry, Dr. Gitlow serves as a medical expert for the Social Security Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and for Medical Boards in Massachusetts and New York.

mug-wellsDr. Kathryn Wells is a board-certified Child Abuse Pediatrician and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado at Denver. She instructs in the area of maternal substance abuse and child maltreatment.

Currently, Dr. Wells serves as medical director of the Denver Health Clinic at the Family Crisis Center and as an attending physician at Denver Health and at the Kempe Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She also is president of the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a leader of the Colorado Court Improvement Project and a member of the board of directors of the Colorado State Foster Parent Association.

Dr. Wells assisted in the formation of the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, where she serves as an advisor to the executive committee. She was also involved in the development of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, where she participates in the Medical/Research Working Group.

Dr. Wells has conducted research on drug issues as they relate to children. Supported by a grant from ACYF’s Children’s Bureau, she developed a model program to better identify and serve substance-exposed newborns and their families. Another grant from HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Healthy Tomorrows Program allowed Dr. Wells to develop a medical home for children in foster care. The result of that effort is the Connections for Kids Clinic at Denver Health — which now provides medical evaluations for 90 percent of the children placed in foster care in the City and County of Denver.

Dr. Wells has received several professional awards. In 2011, she received the James E. Strain Community Service Award from the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for of her outstanding contribution to children’s interests. In 2009, she received the Colorado CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Advocate of the Year Award. In 2007, she received both the inaugural National Collaborative Leadership Award from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare and the Commissioner’s Award from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) branch of HHS.

In her spare time, Dr. Wells enjoys anything related to the outdoors including cycling, hiking, and camping.

mug-riggsDr. Riggs is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado at Denver. For the last decade, she also has served as director of psychiatric services for adolescents at the university-affiliated Addiction, Research and Treatment Services (ARTS).

Dr. Riggs’ research career has focused on the development and testing of effective pharmacotherapy and behavioral treatment interventions in adolescents with substance use disorders and psychiatric comorbidity. More recently, her research has expanded to multi-site effectiveness trials of combined pharmacotherapy and behavioral interventions conducted in community-based treatment settings.

Dr. Riggs has been the principal investigator on several research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Institue on Drug Abuse. They include a recently completed randomized, controlled trial of fluoxetine versus placebo and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in depressed, substance-dependent adolescents. She is currently the principal investigator of a multi-site trial in NIDA’s Clinical Trials Network (CTN): A Randomized Controlled Trial of OROS-MPH for ADHD in Adolescents with Substance Use Disorders.

mug-walkerDr. Leslie R. Walker is a professor and chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children’s Hospital. She is also co-director of the Seattle Children’s Adolescent Substance Abuse Program (ASAP), which includes a treatment program specializing in adolescents with chemical dependence, who have co-occurring mental and/or physical health challenges.

Dr. Walker has conducted research on adolescent health-risk behaviors, including delaying early sexual debut in young adolescents, ADHD and smoking initiation and parental involvement in treatment and prevention of substance abuse. She also has conducted research on healthcare transition for children with chronic illness moving from pediatric to adult healthcare systems. She is currently interested in parental involvement in prevention of early initiation of adolescent risk behaviors.

Dr. Walker was raised in San Jose, Calif., and attended Stanford University for her undergraduate education. After graduation, she moved to the Midwest to study medicine at the University of Illinois School of Medicine at Rockford and trained in pediatrics at the University of Chicago Wyler Children’s Hospital. She completed her adolescent medicine fellowship training at the University of California, San Francisco. From 1996-2007, Dr. Walker was a faculty member and Chief of the Adolescent Medicine Section at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She also served as medical director for the Woodson High School Teen Clinic supported by the Washington, D.C. Department of Health.

Dr. Walker is immediate past president of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, where she has represented the Society on a number of national issues, ranging from vaccination of adolescents to substance abuse and reproductive health and adolescent health-care-system recommendations. Dr. Walker has served on the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Adolescent Health Care Services and Models of Care for Treatment, Prevention and Healthy Development, and on the Institute of Medicine’s Standing Committee on Family Planning. She also has served on the Federal Drug Administration Non-Prescription Drugs Advisory Committee (NPDAC) and the Pediatric Advisory Committee.

Dr. Walker continues to work locally and nationally to increase health equity in patient care by improving pediatric and adolescent health workforce diversity and medical education.

Ben’s passion for recovery, prevention and harm reduction comes from his own struggle with substance abuse. Sober since June 15, 1996, Ben has been a part of the recovery community in almost every way imaginable. From recipient to provider to spokesperson, Ben has a deep understanding of the issues and a personal motivation to see the harmful effects of drug and alcohol abuse minimized.

Today, he serves as director of professional relations for an adult substance-addiction treatment hospital. However, Ben built much of his career outside of the field of substance abuse recovery. Until 2007, he was the director of human resources at an S&P 500 firm. But his departure from that role did, indeed, compel him to do do more to help people enduring the substance struggles he knows so well. Ben started out by working to support a Colorado-based nonprofit that helps people regain sobriety, Phoenix Multisport (PM). As an original board member and then the nonprofit’s first full-time employee, he was instrumental in building Phoenix Multisport into a nationally recognized organization lauded for its innovative approach to building sober communities around sport and healthy activities. He worked extensively with the treatment community and with drug courts and the therapy community as advisor, a member of clinical teams, frequent speaker and liaison.

As someone who understands the experience of addiction treatment as much as the leadership of the programs delivering that treatment, Ben brings a holistic, compassionate and informed perspective to SAM’s efforts.

Dr. A. Eden Evins is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Addiction Medicine and the Addiction Research Program of the Massachusetts General Hospital.

She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and her medical degree at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. She completed an internship in pediatric medicine at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and her residency in psychiatry at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center and Harvard-Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program in Boston, where she was also chief resident. Dr. Evins conducted a fellowship in molecular biology at the Mailman Research Center of McLean Hospital and a second fellowship in clinical and translational research at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She received a master’s degree in public health in clinical effectiveness from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Evins’ research interests include development of novel pharmacologic and behavioral treatments for nicotine dependence and for prevention of relapse to nicotine and other addictive disorders in people with and without major mental illness. Her interests also include development of personalized treatment algorithms, pharmacotherapy for negative symptoms and cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. She has authored book chapters, reviews and articles that have been published in prestigious scientific journals, such as the American Journal of Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, Neuropsychopharmacology, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, and the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Dr. Evins has received two career awards from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institute of Health (NIH), has twice received a National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award, received the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit Young Investigator Award, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program Young Investigator Award. She is currently funded by a NIDA career development award to mentor young scientists in patient-oriented addiction research and to continue her work in development of personalized treatments for addictive disorders, and by two NIDA R01 grants, two R21 grants and one U01 grant for the study of novel pharmacologic and behavioral treatments for addictive disorders.