who we are

The major players in the work of this foundation are clinicians with a special interest in and commitment to medical education about addiction.

Steven J. Eickelberg, MD, FASAM
Dr. Eickelberg was named medical director at The Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, CA in 2014. He specializes in addiction-related psychiatric and psychotherapy services. Previously, he led a private practice in Paradise Valley, Ariz., serving individuals, couples, families and family businesses, health professionals, airline pilots and professional athletes. Over the past 30 years, he has worked in a wide variety of clinical and educational settings, including Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Kaiser Permanente, Good Samaritan and Major League Baseball. He has worked extensively on developing addiction treatment programs for aviation professionals, and has written numerous professional articles for publication. He earned his medical degree at the University of Oregon and interned in surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He also held residencies at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. He has been trained in several advanced psychiatric specialties, holds a number of board certifications and has been recognized as a Fellow by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Dr. Eickelberg has served on the MERF Board of Directors since 1999, The Board of the California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) since 1995, and as the President of the MERF Board since 2002. Dr. Eickelberg is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.


Board Member
Jeff Baxter, MD
Jeff Baxter, M.D., is an Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Baxter completed a fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the Boston VA Medical Center, and is board certified in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine.  Dr. Baxter’s areas of clinical and educational specialty include the treatment of opiate dependence and the interface between chronic pain and addiction.  He is the course director for the pain management course for third year medical students and has been a mentor with the SAMHSA funded Physician Clinical Support Service (PCSS).  He is also working with the NIDA Centers of Excellence in Physician Information Program (NIDA-CoE) developing curricular materials to educate medical providers in the safer use of opioid medications in the treatment of pain and teaches widely on these topics to primary care audiences.

Dr. Baxter currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Spectrum Health Systems Addiction Treatment Services.  In that role, he is responsible for developing clinical systems of care for the inpatient, outpatient and residential divisions.  Dr. Baxter also has experience with incarcerated populations.  He served as the addiction medicine consultant to the UMASS Correctional Health program for over 10 years, where he helped implement protocols for detoxification and methadone maintenance.  


Board Member
L. Paul Gianutsos, MD, MPH
Dr. Gianutsos graduated from the UCLA-Drew School of Medicine in 1993 and completed a family medicine residency at Providence Family Medicine in Seattle. After working in community health centers for several years he returned to graduate medical education and helped develop the Addiction Medicine Fellowship at Swedish Family Medicine Residency Cherry Hill in Seattle where he is currently the Residency Program Director.  He is certified in addiction medicine by the American Society for Addiction Medicine.  His interests include addiction medicine and community development.  He is an advocate for and supports the inclusion of addiction medicine training in primary care curricula nationwide.


Board Member
lembkeAnna Lembke, MD 
Dr. Lembke received her undergraduate degree in Humanities from Yale University and her medical degree from Stanford University. She continued on at Stanford to complete a residency in psychiatry. She is currently Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatryand Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, where she also serves as Program Director for the Stanford Addiction Medicine Program (SAMP); Chief of the Stanford Dual Diagnosis Clinic; and Chief of the Stanford Addiction Psychiatry Initiative.
As a member of the Stanford faculty, Dr. Lembke sees patients, teaches, and does research. Her current work focuses on integrating and enhancing addiction treatment within general medical care.


Board Member
Julie G. Nyquist, PhD
Dr. Nyquist is a Professor in the Division of Medical Education at the University of Southern California. She joined the faculty in 1981, directs the Master of Academic Medicine, and has specialized expertise in evaluation and faculty development. Dr. Nyquist has given over 250 workshops, nationally and internationally, to faculty members from a variety of health professions. From 1993 to 2001 she also served as the Director of Medical Education at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, California, where she provided oversight for all educational activities (undergraduate, graduate, CME, and faculty development) within the Medical Center. Professor Nyquist received her doctorate in Educational Psychology at Michigan State University in 1981.



Board Member
Kenneth Saffier, MD
Dr. Saffier is a family physician specializing in addiction medicine and chronic pain management in the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and Health Centers where he is faculty in their UCSF affiliated family medicine residency program. He is Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.



Board Member
Gloria Sanchez, MD
Dr. Sanchez is a Harbor UCLA Medical Center Department of Family Medicine faculty member.  She attended University of Washington Medical School and has focused her career on assessing and trying to meet the needs of underserved communities.  Teaching future physicians the critical skills necessary to assess and treat substance use disorders has become a primary goal with the medical students and residents she teaches. Her goal remains to create national initiatives in medical training and public policy that meet the needs of vulnerable patient's suffering from substance use disorders. 


Board Member
Gail N. Shultz, MD, FASAM 
Dr. Shultz retired from being the medical director at the Betty Ford Center in 2001 and recently totally retired from part-time practice of addiction medicine in Tucson Arizona at Cottonwood de Tucson.  He is a member of the California Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Society of Addiction medicine having served as a director of both of those organizations and as President of CSAM from 1997 to 1999.  He is certified in addiction medicine and a fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. He has been on the board of MERF for 9 years.


Board Member
Maureen Strohm, MD
Dr. Strohm is a Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine and the founding Family Medicine Residency Director at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. Since 1984, Dr. Strohm has had a career in family medicine education, with a focus on addiction medicine education of medical students and residents. From 1995 to 2009, she served as Residency Director for the USC/California Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program, and is now developing a new Family Medicine Residency at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage and planning key components of training in collaboration with our colleagues at the Betty Ford Center.


Board Member
Ernest J. Vasti, MD
Dr. Vasti 
attended the Medical College Of Wisconsin and graduated in 1983. He completed his family medicine residency at San Joaquin General Hospital in Stockton. He is certified in Addiction Medicine and has spent his entire career in the capacity of 'medication assisted treatment. He also serves as volunteer faculty at UC Davis.


Founding Member
Garrett O'Connor, MD 
Dr. Connor was an internationally renowned psychiatrist and addiction medicine physician. He was Medical Director of Beit T'shuvah Residential Treatment Center. He served as the Chief Psychiatrist at the Betty Ford Center, prior to becoming the President of the Betty Ford Institute. He is remembered for combining scientific rigor and passion with honesty, wit, tenderness, and humor. Dr. O’Connor had a strong commitment to medical education about addiction and gave everything he could to help those suffering from the disease of addiction, including by sharing his own personal struggles with the disease. And he consistently argued that as we come to a better understanding of the biological roots of addiction, we need to not lose sight of psychological and social factors and the importance of spirituality in recovery.