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Amber Cahill named Bloomberg American Health Initiative fellow

By Susan E.W. Spencer

UMass Chan Medical School Communications

June 28, 2022
Amber Cahill, PsyD

Amber Cahill, PsyD, assistant professor of family medicine & community health and a clinical psychologist who directs the behavioral science curriculum at the Fitchburg Family Medicine residency, has been named a fellow in the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Cahill trains resident physicians in mental health and substance use disorders. She is also faculty in the Center for Integrated Primary Care, a team that develops and disseminates knowledge and skills through workforce development and practice-based research.

“I am really deeply passionate about primary care and family medicine, because it is this evolving entity that listens and responds to the needs of the community it serves,” said Cahill.

The Bloomberg American Health Initiative focuses on critical health challenges facing the nation: addiction and overdose, adolescent health, environmental challenges, obesity and the food system, and violence. The initiative was established in 2016 with a $300 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies in honor of the centennial of the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Cahill is one of 50 fellows awarded a full scholarship to earn a master’s degree in public health. Upon completion of the degree, Bloomberg fellows are committed to working at least one additional year with their employer to apply the skills and tools gained during the fellowship.

Cahill said she has been immersed in treating substance use disorders, harm reduction and helping primary care clinicians treat addiction. Traditionally, people with addiction have been referred to specialists or rehabilitation facilities that are disconnected from the medical system, she explained.

“Over the past decade, we’ve been trying to blend these worlds to get this integrated, like it should have been in the first place,” Cahill said.

Cahill recently finished a project led by Daniel Mullin, PsyD, MPH, associate professor of family medicine & community health, that created comprehensive opioid use disorder (OUD) training for medical students across the state, making them eligible upon graduation to receive their DATA (Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000) waiver to administer, dispense and prescribe buprenorphine. That drug treats opioid use disorder by relieving opioid withdrawal and decreasing cravings, while blocking the effect of other opioids. A shortage of “waivered” physicians has been an obstacle to treating opioid use disorders in the community.

Thinking about harm reduction, policy and how to help clinicians communicate with people who are using drugs led Cahill to consider drug use as a population health problem that affects many facets of life. That led her to the Bloomberg fellowship.

Cahill said, “I love it here and I’d like to implement the things I learn from more of a population health standpoint and put those skills into action.”

Related UMass Chan news stories:
What is fentanyl and why is it behind the deadly surge in US drug overdoses?
New $12.3 million NIMH grant explores MISSION recovery model for opioid addiction and mental illness