Core Faculty

Virginia Commonwealth University

Mary LoosMary Loos, VCU Program Director

Dr. Loos is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Virginia Commonwealth University and has served as the VCU Program Director for the International Programme in Addiction Studies (IPAS), an innovative Master of Science in Addiction Studies Program offered collaboratively with King’s College London and the University of Adelaide in Australia via distance learning technologies, since 2006. Trained as a clinical/community psychologist with research interests in developmental psychopathology, her primary focus for the past several years has been international and distance learning program development and undergraduate teaching. Dr. Loos also has an extensive background in mental health and substance abuse program evaluation, having worked in the Research and Evaluation Offices of the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services from 1999 to 2002, and as an evaluation consultant to the Virginia Olmstead Task Force in 2002 and 2003. Dr. Loos received her B.A. in political science, cum laude, from Barnard College of Columbia University in 1985 and her PhD in Clinical/Community Psychology in 1998 from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Bob Balster, VCU Program Co-Director

Dr. Balster is the  Luther A. Butler Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University, Medical College of Virginia campus in Richmond. He is the Coordinator for VCU site for the Humphrey Fellowship Program in Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Policy.  Dr. Balster is a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), and the American Psychological Association. Dr. Balster is a founder and past Director of VCU's Institute for Drug and Alcohol studies, a recent Past‑President of the CPDD and a former member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence (Dependence Liability Evaluation). Previous appointments also include Chair of the Drug Abuse Clinical and Behavior Study Section at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Chair of the FDA Drug Abuse Advisory Committee, and Chair of the Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association. From 1998-2010 he was Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence and currently serves on the editorial boards of five journals.

In 2000, Dr. Balster received the first annual Mentorship Award of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence for his lifetime achievements in training and nurturing young drug abuse scientists in his laboratories. Other awards include the VCU School of Medicine Faculty Teaching Excellence Award (2003), the Excellence in Mentorship Award from the NIDA International Program (2006), the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Service to Psychological Science (2006), the Brady-Schuster Award from the Division of Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse of the American Psychological Association (2007) and the CPDD Nathan B. Eddy Award (2009).

The principal areas of Dr. Balster's research program are neurobehavioral pharmacology and substance abuse. His primary interests are in phencyclidine, ketamine and inhalant abuse. He has also worked in the areas of marijuana, opiate, tobacco and alcohol research. He also has extensive experience in drug abuse potential evaluation and in the drug approval process for psychiatric, neurologic and addiction treatment products. He has also worked in neurobehavioral toxicology. Dr. Balster’s research program has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1976 and he has been the recipient of a NIDA MERIT Award. Dr. Balster has published over 260 papers in scientific journals, edited two books and authored over 35 book chapters. He also has experience in the area of drug abuse policy and has testified before Congress and the Virginia General Assembly. He served as the Public Policy Officer for the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and on the Steering Committee for a CPDD-sponsored Fall 2002 meeting on regulatory aspects of drug abuse potential assessment which involved US regulatory agencies and representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. He recently Co-Chaired the Planning Committee for a 2008 national meeting on the use of risk management and post-marketing surveillance in limiting prescription drug abuse.

Betsy TurfElizabeth Eustis-Turf, VCU Course Coordinator

As an epidemiologist, I collaborate with other researchers to design and implement human research studies. For the last ten years I have worked in such areas as youth tobacco use, evaluation for mental health and substance abuse services and review of the use of television for health education.

I worked with a group of VCU faculty to bring the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program to VCU and served as the education coordinator for the Fellows for four years. I have also been very involved in the design, development and conduct of the International Program in Addiction Studies, a tri-partite graduate program leading to a Master of Science in Addiction Studies. This program is a true collaboration in which VCU works with King’s College London and the University of Adelaide to offer a completely online program to disseminate the latest information regarding addiction treatment, prevention and policy worldwide. There are currently over 30 students enrolled in the program and they represent many different countries, both developed and developing.

My current research involves prevention of consequences associated with substance misuse in Virginia. I am the lead epidemiologist on a five-year SAMHSA (Substance Abuse, Mental Health Services Administration) collaborative project entitled "Applying a Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) to develop state-level infrastructure target parallel development in selected high-need communities". Review of statewide data indicated that Virginia has a higher than expected level of binge drinking and motor vehicle crashes with alcohol-impaired drivers 15 to 24 so we are now planning for distribution of funds to communities with high evidence of need. This is funded through a sub-grant from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

Charles O'KeeffeCharles O'Keeffe, Founder and Course Coordinator

Charles O´Keeffe is currently a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), as well as the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies at VCU.  Previously, he served as the president and CEO of Reckett Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc, as well as the  president of Washington Reference Laboratories, which was the largest clinical toxicology laboratory in the nation, providing urine toxicology services to the Department of Defense during the Vietnam War.  He has also served in the White House under three presidents; as Advisor, Special Assistant for International Health, and as Deputy Director of the Office of Drug Abuse Policy, he was responsible for encouraging the U.S. Senate to ratify the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Mr. O´Keeffe has served on U.S. delegations to the World Health Assembly and the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. He has served as expert advisor to the WHO, UNFDAC, UNSDRI, and other UN agencies. Mr. O´Keeffe was also instrumental in assisting the Congress to reach consensus on the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, and he also developed the first child-resistant, abuse-resistant vehicle for dispensing methadone as president of Drug Abuse Rehabilitation Services.  Mr. O'Keeffe did his undergraduate work in pharmacy and chemistry at the Medical College of Virginia School of Pharmacy and Temple University and earned his MBA at Loyola.

University of Adelaide

Femke Buisman-Pijlman, UA Program Director

Femke Buisman-Pijlman works as a Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide specialising in Addiction Studies. Femke obtained her MSc in Biology at and PhD degree in behavioural neuroscience in the Netherlands. She is program coordinator and course coordinator for all the post-graduate courses in Alcohol and Drug Studies. Her research interests focus on individual differences in the sensitivity to stress and addiction, pain and addiction studies in general.  Femke recently received the Executive Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching from The University of Adelaide.


Abdallah Salem, UA Program Co-Director

Dr Abdallah Salem is the head of the Discipline of Pharmacology at The University of Adelaide. He has a leading role in Teaching in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the School of Medical Sciences. As an Associate Professor in Pharmacology, he coordinates and teaches pharmacology courses to students in the Bachelor of Health Sciences, Nursing, Dentistry and Medicine degrees. Dr Salem’s research interests are focused on understanding the central mechanisms underlying the acute and chronic effects of drugs of abuse and dependence. He is currently investigating the neurotoxic effects of amphetamine derivatives such as methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA, ‘ecstasy’) and p-methoxyamphetamine (PMA).


Robert Ali, UA Program Course Coordinator

Assoc. Professor Robert Ali is a public health physician and specialist in addiction medicine who graduated from Adelaide Medical School. He is the Director of Community Based Treatment Interventions at the Drug & Alcohol Services South Australia, as well as the Director of a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Research into the Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Problems at the University of Adelaide. He is the Asia Pacific Editor for Drug and Alcohol Review and a member of Drug and Alcohol Dependence Editorial board. Robert is an executive member of the Australian National Council on Drugs, member of the Cochrane Alcohol and Drug Group editorial board and the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence and Alcohol Problems.

He holds a number of university appointments, including visiting research fellow at the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, Clinical Associate Professor in the Discipline of Pharmacology at Adelaide University and Senior Lecturer at the National Centre for Education and Training in Addictions at Flinders University.

Robert is the Coordinator for the World Health Organization WHO-ASSIST (Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test). His research interests include drug substitution therapies for opioid dependence and management of ATS dependence.


Linda Gowing, UA Program Course Coordinator

Linda Gowing is a Principal Research Officer at Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia, and an Associate Professor in the Discipline of Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide. Linda has an honours degree in clinical biochemistry, and a PhD in experimental pathology (looking at basic cellular changes associated with the development of malignancy). After 11 years in the Federal Department of Health, she moved to DASSA in 1998 to establish the Evidence-Based Practice Unit. Linda has substantial experience in the preparation of systematic reviews, including Cochrane reviews, and evidence-based guidelines. She is the primary author of five Cochrane reviews, four on approaches to the management of opioid withdrawal, and one on substitution treatment of opioid dependence for prevention of HIV. Dr Gowing has been a mentor for researchers in Thailand, China, USA and Australia, helping them to become familiar with the systematic review process and undertake their own Cochrane reviews on the treatment of alcohol and other drug use. She has also been involved in teaching medical and science students on the treatment of alcohol and other drug users, evidence-based practice and critical appraisal of research. The dissemination of the findings of systematic reviews in a form that promotes adoption of evidence-based practices is another area of interest. This is reflected in her involvement in the preparation of national guidelines on pharmacotherapies for opioid dependence, and several monographs relating to the treatment of alcohol and other drug users. Linda is an Assistant Editor for the journal Addiction, and a member of the editorial board for the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group.

King's College London

Kyle Dyer, KCL Program Director

Dr. Dyer migrated from Australia to the United Kingdom in June 2008. He is a psycho-pharmacologist who completed his PhD within the Department of Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology and the Department of Psychology at the University of Adelaide in 2000. From 2000-2008, he was a Senior Lecturer within the School of Medicine & Pharmacology at the University of Western Australia where he developed and managed a multidisciplinary research group comprising university and Government employed research staff and administrative assistants. This position involved joint status at the Drug & Alcohol Office (WA Department of Health) where he was responsible for the management of clinical research concerning the treatment of alcohol and other drug dependencies; the provision of workforce education and training; and supporting clinical practice and policy development via the provision of consultancy, Ministerial Briefings and patient treatment plans. From 1996-2000 he was a Lecturer in workforce development at the National Centre for Education & Training on Addiction (School of Medicine, Flinders University of South Australia).

Dr. Dyer has been conducting research into the nature and treatment of drug dependence, the efficacy of point-of-collection oral fluid drug tests, the relationship between drug concentration and psycho-behavioural and cognitive impairment, medical education and workforce development. Parallel research areas include the diagnosis and management of mental health problems and neuro-cognitive impairment among drug dependent individuals; the assessment and management of illicit drug withdrawal and dependence; and the relationship between acute and chronic drug use and cognitive functioning, including the areas of drugs and driving and drug impairment in the workplace. This research activity has been supported by numerous research grants, and Government and Industry sourced funding. He has published his work in high impact medical, psychological and pharmacological journals, and promoted his work at numerous conferences and through the media.

He has extensive experience in undergraduate and postgraduate education delivered through various modalities (e.g. didactic, small group, distance education), workforce development, curricula design and the development and marketing of postgraduate clinical degrees. He has been a guest lecturer at numerous universities in Australia and England, and is currently a Visiting Fellow in the School of Psychology, London South Bank University and External Examiner at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London. He has received an Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Western Australia and a National Australian Drug & Alcohol Award: Excellence in Treatment for establishing the East Perth Neuropsychology Clinic.


John StrangJohn Strang, KCL Program Co-Director

Professor Strang is one of the UK’s leading experts in addiction. He is the Head of the Addictions Department at King’s College London and Leader of the Addictions Clinical Academic Group of the Kings Health Partners AHSC (Academic Health Science Centre). Professor Strang has been a Consultant Psychiatrist in addictions treatment for over 30 years, mainly at the South London & Maudsley NHS Trust. He has had extensive experience as a Lead Clinician and Clinical Director, in charge of a wide range of treatments in community and residential settings.

Professor Strang’s area of particular clinical expertise is heroin and cocaine addiction. His current research interests include: setting up supervised injecting clinics for managing entrenched heroin addicts who cannot otherwise be engaged in treatment; the investigation of new approaches to preventing drug-overdose deaths, involving drug users and family members; developing a UK evidence base for contingency management in addiction treatment; and incentive-based interventions to improve treatments to reduce drug use and associated harms.

Prof Strang has over 400 papers published. He is one of only six Addiction Research scientists outside North America who is listed in For a full publications listing, please refer to:

Anna WilliamsAnna Williams, KCL Course Coordinator

Dr Anna Williams is a postdoctoral research coordinator at the Addictions Department, King’s College London and has been a member of the Addictions Department for the past five years. She currently works in the IPAS as a module leaders. Dr Anna Williams graduated as a psychologist in Brazil, where she also completed her Masters Degree in Psychiatry. Her master’s project focused on the development and delivery of psycho-educational interventions for crack-cocaine users from shantytowns. She also gained clinical experience working as a psychologist assistant in an inpatient unit for alcohol and drug treatment. She has recently completed her PhD in Addiction Science at the Institute of Psychiatry (KCL), under the supervision of Professor John Strang and Dr John Marsden. Her PhD centred on the prevention of fatal heroin overdose by providing training and take-home naloxone to the users’ family and social network. Dr Anna Williams has also received funding from the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA, UK) to lead a project on overdose prevention among ethnic minorities and drug user involvement in the criminal justice system. She is involved in teaching activities as a tutor and also provides advice and support to PhD students from the Addictions Department.