In Memoriam: Richard Saitz, MD, MPH

Headshot of Dr. SaitzRichard Saitz, MD, MPH, professor of medicine/GIM and professor & chair of community health sciences at SPH since 2014, passed away Jan. 15 from pancreatic cancer. He was 58.

A Double Terrier (CAS’87, MED’87) and lifelong member of the BU community, Rich joined the BUSM faculty in 1993.

Rich had an international reputation in both alcohol and drug addiction research. His mantra was “follow the evidence.” His landmark article, “Individualized Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal: A Randomized Double-blind Controlled Trial,” changed practice regarding the approach to the treatment of the common problem of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. At his core, Rich was a dedicated physician committed to his patients and to our mission. He directed Boston Medical Center’s Clinical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Unit for more than a decade. He also chaired an Institutional Review Board and was co-principal investigator of BU’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. His leadership in the addiction world was manifested in his many roles, including as associate editor for the Journal of the American Medical Association, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Addiction Medicine, section editor and sole author of key chapters in UpToDate® on unhealthy substance use, an editor of The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine, editor emeritus of Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, editor of Evidence-Based Medicine, author of more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, and former president of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA), in addition to numerous honors and awards.

Rich committed himself to the advancement of junior colleagues serving as a mentor to many, both in the USA and internationally. His critical, thoughtful understanding of the medical literature with regard to addressing alcohol and drug addiction issues, particularly as it related to chronic medical problems including HIV infection, set him apart as an invaluable authority in the academic community.

Rich’s research focused on screening and brief interventions, integrating substance-related and general health care, and improving the quality of care, particularly in general health settings. He validated single-item screening questions recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Beyond his outstanding contributions to our Boston, national and international scientific communities, Rich was a devoted friend, colleague and collaborator. We will miss his warm and engaging personality, keen intellect, easy laugh and zest for life. Our deepest condolences to Angela Jackson, MD, their two daughters Isabella and Tatiana, and to their family, many friends and colleagues.

Services will be private.

Members of the BUMC community are invited to join the family and friends of Rich at a celebration of his life on Monday, April 4, at 3:30 p.m. The hybrid event will be held in Hiebert Lounge and on Zoom. More information is available here.