Yale University Fixes a 53-Year Old Mistake and Returns to Alcohol Research & Policy

Yale Medical School issued a press release yesterday about the opening of a new addiction research and policy center:

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia), a leading national organization whose mission is to educate the public and improve the prevention and treatment of addiction, has partnered with Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Public Health to form a new addiction research and policy center based in New Haven. The Yale–CASA center-of-excellence will expand critically important work to shape public policy, disseminate evidence-based practices, and educate families, providers, and policymakers.

It’s good news, and it was very smart of them to partner with Columbia, which has been one of the universities at the forefront on these issues. The ironic aspect of this is that they once had the premier alcohol research center in the country. This history is provided from the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies history page:

The Center of Alcohol Studies is the first interdisciplinary research center devoted to alcohol use and alcohol-related problems and treatment. Evolving in the late 1930s and 1940s at the Yale University Laboratory of Applied Physiology and Biodynamics, which was directed by Yale physician Howard W. Haggard, the Section on Alcohol Studies, headed by E.M. Jellinek, pursued studies of the effects of alcohol on the body, which broadened into a wide perspective of alcohol-related problems. The increasing demand for information about alcoholism led the Center to found the Summer School of Alcohol Studies in 1943. In 1944, the Center also began the Yale Plan Clinics, the first ever outpatient facilities for the treatment of alcoholism. The Yale Plan for Business and Industry, forerunner of current-day employee assistance programs, also began in the mid-1940s, in response to requests from business and industry having to cope with employment shortages during World War II. Another of Dr. Haggard’s contributions to the field was the founding of the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol in 1940. Today the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs remains a foremost journal in the field and is one of the top ten most cited substance-abuse journals.

The Center of Alcohol Studies was the leader of the movement to recognize alcoholism as a major public health problem and to have the American Medical Association accept alcoholism as a treatable illness, a policy it formally adopted in the 1950s.

And then in 1962 the Center of Alcohol Studies left Yale and moved to Rutgers. Over the last 17 years, multiple sources have told me that by the early 1960’s Yale had decided that it was beneath them to be in Alcohol Studies. Fortunately, my alma mater was willing to adopt it (full disclosure: I took courses at the Summer School of Alcohol Studies from 1998 through 2007 and I began working there as an instructor in 2008. This summer, I will teach two courses there).

I am glad that Yale made such an egregious error all of those years ago, because the Center of Alcohol Studies (CAS) helped shape the course of my career. Back in 1998, Gail Milgrim (who was in the middle of a 30-year run as the Director of the Education and Training Program), gave me a scholarship to attend the summer school and said, “I think you’d be good in this field.” It hasn’t only helped me though – thousands upon thousands of professionals have been trained by their faculty and CAS is the acknowledged leader in the alcohol research field.

Yale has finally seen the error of their ways. Kudos.