Kaiser Permanente Substance Abuse Researcher Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
Connie Weisner (3rd from right) with NIDA and NIAAA directors, former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy (center), and colleagues at the 2016 launch of the report on alcohol and drug misuse, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health. (Photo: NIH Record)

Kaiser Permanente Substance Abuse Researcher Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Division of Research scientific leader recognized for her work on understanding alcohol addiction

By Jon Weiner

The Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) awarded its 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award to Constance (Connie) Weisner, DrPH, of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research. Weisner currently heads the Division’s Behavioral Health and Aging, and Infectious Diseases sections. She is an emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Psychiatry, where she was a professor from 1999 to 2018, with a joint appointment at the Division of Research. Nominated by her peers, she was selected and voted on by the RSA Awards Committee.

The Division of Research’s Connie Weisner, DrPH.

The award is given to an individual who has had a “long, balanced career including outstanding research, training, service, and advocacy.” The committee selected Weisner for her excellence in all these areas throughout her career.

“Her contributions to alcohol research, training, service, and advocacy during her 50-plus year career are emblematic of lifetime achievement.”

-From the nomination letter.

“Dr. Weisner has been a beacon for generations of researchers in our research department and throughout the nation,” said Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, director of the Division of Research. “Her strong vision, energy, and grace have made her a favored mentor and builder of key programs that have fostered the development of researchers and clinician leaders in alcoholism, substance abuse, and mental health more broadly.”

Weisner has been a member of several Institute of Medicine reports addressing addiction and mental health issues. As one of the scientific editors of the Surgeon General’s landmark report, “Facing Addiction in America,” Weisner authored the section titled, “Health Care Systems and Substance Use Disorders.” Her work throughout her career has focused on the integration of alcohol treatment into mainstream health care.

Weisner’s career began in social work. She holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. She was executive director of San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury Center for Alcohol Problems in the mid-1970s and worked for 23 years at the Alcohol Research Group in Berkeley, including as its director.

“I’ve always been focused on the range of alcohol and drug problems, from low risk to addiction, and the different approaches to addressing them in health care as well as specialty treatment,” Weisner said. “I’m also interested in reducing stigma about these problems. Our research group has shown that individuals with addiction problems can recover and lead productive lives.”

Weisner has 238 publications to her name — 57 of them first-authored and 113 senior-authored. She has also co-authored 14 book chapters and 4 books. She has been the principal investigator of over 42 National Institutes of Health research grants and 5 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation research grants, and has received Merit Awards from both the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Weisner will be recognized for her achievements at the RSA Closing Ceremony during its annual meeting this June in Minneapolis.

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