UC alumnus makes $2 million gift

The founder of a large network of addiction treatment centers has made a $2 million gift to the University of Cincinnati to support faculty focused on the research and treatment of substance abuse.

The generosity of Shawn A. Ryan, a 2010 graduate, will support the Emergency Medicine Endowed Chair to benefit the treatment of mental health and substance use disorder. Ryan is a graduate of the university’s Emergency Medicine Residency Program

Shawn A. Ryan, MD

During his time as a resident, Ryan became aware of the needs of patients with mental health and substance abuse disorders. That experience, and his work as an emergency physician and hospital administrator, inspired him to create BrightView, an addiction treatment program in Cincinnati and Arizona, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Virginia. An advocate for those suffering from chemical dependency, Ryan serves on the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s Legislative Advocacy Committee and is part of several regional, state and national committees focused on the opioid epidemic.

Like cities throughout the country, Cincinnati has been severely impacted by the opioid epidemic. Substance abuse patients often cycle through repeated treatment and release from health care facilities like emergency departments. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.3 million people aged 12 or older misused pain relievers in 2019.

Thanks to Ryan’s gift, the faculty member assigned to the endowed chair position will not only specialize in the research, treatment, and education of mental health and substance use disorder but will also have protected time dedicated to this area. The intent is to provide better outcomes for patients struggling with this disorder in the Cincinnati community. Endowed chairs help retain and recruit prominent faculty and allow them to research evidence-based treatments.

Structured as a “virtual chair,” this new giving option is unique because it subsidizes the faculty salary that would be created from a fully endowed fund of $2 million. The generosity of an annual payment to the fund allows the position to be filled immediately, having a quicker impact.

“It has been rewarding to witness Dr. Ryan become an expert in the field of addiction,” said Arthur M. Pancioli, MD, professor and chair of emergency medicine at the College of Medicine. “He was intentional about elevating this work in a timely manner.”

The chair’s creation coincides with new legislation coming out of the Biden administration that will benefit physicians treating opioid use disorder. The X-waiver, a special Drug Enforcement Administration certification, required physicians to complete eight hours of training before prescribing buprenorphine (Suboxone) to curb addiction cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Nurse practitioners had to take an additional 16 hours of training.

Now that the X-waiver is no longer mandatory, more physicians can prescribe buprenorphine and reduce opioid deaths. Removing this barrier normalizes buprenorphine as a treatment option, saving more lives.

As an expert and member of the ASAM, Ryan has advocated for this change.

“I am so grateful for the time I spent training at UC,” said Ryan. “I’m pleased I can advance its exemplary work and goal of helping patients with addiction through evidence-based, patient-focused care.”

The College of Medicine’s Emergency Residency Program, established in 1970, was the first in the nation.

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