Medical Advisory Board

Sharon Walsh

Dr. Sharon Walsh

Chair of Medical Advisory Board

Sharon Walsh, Ph.D. is a Professor of Behavioral Science, Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Kentucky.  She is the Director of the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research.  She earned her Ph.D. from Rutgers University in Behavioral Neuroscience and, after postdoctoral training she joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where she remained for 13 years before leaving at the rank of Professor.  Her clinical research focuses on pharmacological and behavioral issues in opioid abuse and dependence, including studies on the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic characteristics of opioid dependence pharmacotherapies (i.e., buprenorphine, methadone, LAAM) and more recently on widely used opioid analgesics (i.e., oxycodone, hydrocodone, tramadol and morphine).  She lectures nationally and internationally on opioid abuse, dependence and its treatment.  More broadly, she has conducted studies in cocaine, nicotine and marijuana dependence and contributed to clinical practice guidelines and board specialty requirements in addiction medicine.  She has published over 100 manuscripts and book chapters.  Her honors include receiving the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President William Clinton, the Joseph Cochin Young Investigator Award, the Betty Ford Award, serving as President of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and the Provost’s Distinguished Service Professorship.  She has served on review and advisory boards for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Veteran’s Administration, National Institutes of Health, the American Society for Addiction Medicine, served an expert reviewer for the World Health Organization, and presently serves as a Special Government appointee to the Food and Drug Administration.


Dr. Sandra Comer

Dr. Sandra Comer is a Professor of Neurobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and a Research Scientist VI at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Following Ph.D. studies at the University of Michigan and post-doctoral research at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Comer joined Columbia University in 1993, where her research focus has been on the development and testing of novel approaches to the treatment of opioid dependence. She is the Director of the Opioid Laboratories in the Division on Substance Abuse and runs a very active research program devoted to examining various aspects of the abuse liability of opioid medications. Dr. Comer served on the Institutional Review Board at the NYSPI for 10 years, so she is familiar with the regulatory requirements of research with human volunteers. In addition, she is an active member of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, the longest standing group in the United States addressing problems of drug dependence and abuse. She served on the Ethics Committee of CPDD from 2004-2006, and on the Program Committee of CPDD from 2007-2013. From 2010-2013, Dr. Comer was Chair of the Program Committee. Furthermore, from 2010-2013, she served on the Board of Directors of CPDD. She was elected President of CPDD and will serve her term from 2015-2016. In 2009 and 2010, Dr. Comer co-chaired meetings sponsored by the Initiative on Methods, Measurements, and Pain Assessment in Clinical Trials (IMMPACT group) to develop a consensus statement by abuse liability experts, senior regulatory agents from the Food and Drug Administration, and industry representatives on the most appropriate primary and secondary dependent measures to use in abuse liability trials. She has published over 115 papers, chapters, and books on issues related to drug dependence.


Dr. Thomas R. Kosten

Dr. Kosten is the JH Waggoner Chair and Professor of Psychiatry, Pharmacology, Immunology and Neuroscience, vice-Chair for Psychiatry and Co-director of the Dan L. Duncan Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) at Baylor College of Medicine.  He is the founding Vice Chair for Addiction Psychiatry of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and Past President of both the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) and the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD). He is a Distinguished Life Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP).  He has served as a Congressional Fellow in the US House of Representatives and has been a long-standing member of various substance abuse commissions for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) as well as various advisory boards for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Defense (DOD).  He is the current Editor for the American Journal on Addictions, past Editor for the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, and serves on the board of several notable journals in substance abuse. He has published over 650 papers, books, and reviews describing his contributions, particularly in the use of pharmacotherapeutics for treating cocaine and opioid addictive disorders as well as his work in vaccine development for cocaine and methamphetamine addictions.


Dr. Marc Potenza

Dr. Potenza is a board-certified psychiatrist with sub-specialty training and certification in addiction psychiatry. He has trained at Yale University receiving a combined BS/MS with Honors in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics and a PhD in Cell Biology, the latter concurrent with the MD through the Medical Scientist Training Program. He completed internship, psychiatric residency and addiction psychiatry fellowship training at Yale. Currently, he is a Professor of Psychiatry, Child Study and Neuroscience at the Yale University School of Medicine where he is a CASAColumbia Senior Scientist and the Director of the Problem Gambling Clinic, the Center of Excellence in Gambling Research, and the Women and Addictive Disorders Core of Women’s Health Research at Yale. He is on the editorial boards of fourteen journals (including editor-in-chief of Current Addiction Reports) and has received multiple national and international awards for excellence in research and clinical care. He has consulted to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Registry of Effective Programs, National Institutes of Health, American Psychiatric Association and World Health Organization on matters of addiction. He has participated in two DSM-5 research work groups, addressing topics relating to gambling, impulse control, and addiction.

Dr. Potenza’s research has focused on the neurobiology and treatment of substance and non-substance addictions and other disorders characterized by impaired impulse control and reward-related motivations. The majority of this work has focused on understanding clinical and neurobiological underpinnings of these disorders, and their co-occurrences with other mental health disorders, in order to advance prevention and treatment strategies. Dr. Potenza’s research has applied brain imaging, genetic, epidemiological and clinical trials methodologies to gain knowledge and improve prevention and treatment strategies for addictive disorders. This work has also involved identifying potential intermediary phenotypes, like facets of impulsivity, that may in part explain the high rates of co-occurrence between psychiatric conditions and might represent novel targets for prevention and treatment strategies.


Charles P. O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D.

Charles P. O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D., is Kenneth Appel Professor and Vice Chair of Psychiatry, and Founding Director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In addition, Dr. O’Brien served as Chief of Psychiatry at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center until 2008. He earned his MD and PhD from Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA, and received his residency training in internal medicine, neurology, and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, Tulane University, the University of London in the United Kingdom, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. O’Brien was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1991 and has received numerous research and teaching awards, as well as an honorary doctorate from the University of Bordeaux in 1994, the Nathan B. Eddy Award for Research on Addiction from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence in 2003, the American Psychiatric Association Research Award in 2000, and the 2010 Gold Medal for Research from the Society on Biological Psychiatry. In 2010, he received the Sarnat International Prize for Mental Health from the Institute of Medicine, and in 2012, the Jellinek International Award for Alcoholism Research and the Isaacson Award for Alcoholism Research. In 2013 he received the Chevalier (Knight) of the French Legion of Honor for his contributions to French addiction science, In 2015, he received the Lifetime Science Award from NIDA/NIH for research contributions. Dr. O’Brien has been an adviser on drug policy to local and national governments since the 1970s, has chaired or served as a member of numerous Institute of Medicine committees dealing with the science and policy matters of abused drugs, and is recently served as Chair of the Substance Use Disorders Committee for revision of DSM-5. Despite a large clinical responsibility, Dr. O’Brien has been able to establish and direct a clinical research program that has had a major impact on the treatment of addictive disorders. His research group has been responsible for numerous discoveries such as opioid antagonists for alcoholism and the Addiction Severity Index described in more than 550 publications. Many of these discoveries are used throughout the world for the treatment of addictive disorders.


Dr. Walter Ling

Dr. Walter Ling is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and the founding director of the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP) at UCLA, one of the foremost substance abuse research groups in the US. He is board certified in neurology and psychiatry, is active in research and clinical work, and has been listed in ‘Best Doctors in America’, ‘Best Doctors in the West’ and ‘Best Doctors in Los Angeles’. Doctor Ling’s research in opiate pharmacotherapy provided pivotal information for the approval of buprenorphine and naltrexone. His current focus of research includes abuse and dependence on methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and prescription opiates; opiate induced hyperalgesia, treatment of pain in opiate-maintained patients, including those treated with buprenorphine and the role of buprenorphine in the management of pain in these patients.