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Addiction pioneer recognized with professorship

Medicine@Yale, 2016 - Sept Oct


Leader of Connecticut-based vaccine maker endows chair for chief of internal medicine

As executive chair and head of global business development at Meriden, Conn.-based Protein Sciences, Dan Adams develops and manufactures vaccines. The School of Medicine’s Patrick G. O’Connor, M.D., M.P.H., chief of general internal medicine, works to improve treatment for addiction in primary care settings, where help may be most accessible. The two men share a commitment to the mission statement of Protein Sciences, which reads in part: “To save lives and improve health by effectively responding to the changing world.”

This past spring, in recognition of that common vision, O’Connor was named the first Dan Adams and Amanda Adams Professor of General Medicine. Dan Adams, a former member of the School of Medicine’s Dean’s Council, created the professorship with a substantial endowment.

The endowment honors Amanda Adams, who is Dan Adams’ daughter, senior vice president and assistant general counsel at Citicorp, and a 1997 graduate of Yale College.

O’Connor’s research focuses on the interfaces among general internal medicine, primary care, and addiction. “His internationally renowned work has already made a tremendous difference in how drug and alcohol addictions are treated,” says Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine. “Office-based treatment with buprenorphine is now the most common form of therapy for opioid addiction. That rests solidly on Patrick’s research.”

O’Connor conducted the first randomized clinical trial of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence in primary care, published in the American Journal of Medicine in 1997. He has conducted numerous National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trials, including a randomized trial of naltrexone for the treatment of alcohol dependence using a primary care-based management approach, published in 2003 in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Dan Adams’ relationship with Yale had an unusual beginning. He was accepted to Yale College but chose Cornell, where he majored in chemistry and minored in physics. It was, he says, an act of “adolescent rebellion” against a father who dearly wished for him to go to Yale. He later earned a law degree from New York University and practiced law on Wall Street, but after a tour as an Army captain and company commander in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War he decided he was better suited to running companies.

He would found and manage five biopharmaceutical companies that have a combined market value of over $70 billion. Adams saw vaccines as a tremendous business opportunity, because manufacturing methods cried out to be modernized and “vaccines are the most efficient form of health care,” he says.

Amanda Adams did attend Yale College, and her time there was eventful. She was diagnosed with cancer during her freshman year. Vincent T. DeVita Jr., M.D., the Amy and Joseph Perella Professor of Medicine and professor of epidemiology, and then director of Yale Cancer Center, took charge of her case.

Amanda never needed to take a medical leave during treatment, she recalls. Her clinicians cheered her on to success throughout her four years as she played varsity ice hockey, a family passion. “Everyone was wonderful, across the board,” she says. Now, O’Connor and Dan Adams have adjacent seats at Yale hockey games.

O’Connor’s career has been strongly rooted at Yale. He came to the School of Medicine in 1986 as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar. He received his M.P.H. from the School of Public Health after first earning a medical degree at the Albany Medical College and completing a residency at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.

O’Connor has been a consultant to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and co-hosted a White House symposium on addiction last year. He will speak there again this fall. He has been president of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse, and is a founding director and past president of the American Board of Addiction Medicine.

The medical school’s section of general internal medicine has grown dramatically through O’Connor’s recruitment of talented physician-scientists and clinician educators, and its research portfolio has grown tenfold.

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