11.13.20 Leadership

AMA Foundation honors Omaha physician with health education award

CHICAGO — The American Medical Association Foundation (AMAF) has honored Alena A. Balasanova, M.D. with the AMA Foundation Award for Health Education, made possible through the generous support of the John P. McGovern Foundation. Dr. Balasanova has spent her career as a physician, educator, and innovator, contributing to the development of addiction and psychiatric clinical service.

Recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the AMAF for her substantial contribution to medical education, Dr. Balasanova has demonstrated leadership in addiction medicine and built a legacy at the University of Nebraska. While there, she has developed an outpatient addiction psychiatric clinic, an in-patient addiction psychiatric program, and wrote the curriculum for clinical rotations for medical students, residents, and fellows in addiction medicine.

In addition, Dr. Balasanova has advanced the education and training of fellow clinicians by developing a virtual training office of addiction psychiatry materials for residency programs and as senior trainer for the state of Nebraska in the Opioid Response Network. Last year, Dr. Balasanova created resolutions destigmatizing addiction language which were adopted by the Nebraska Medical Association and presented and adopted at the 2019 AMA Interim House of Delegates Meeting. “Never did I imagine in my wildest dreams being recognized for doing something that I love,” Dr. Balasanova shared. “For educating students, trainees, colleagues, patients, and the public on viewing substance use disorders as the medical conditions that they are, and for destigmatizing the language of addiction.”

Dr. Balasanova’s family immigrated to the United States from Armenia as refugees. Her past experiences have inspired her to be a passionate voice for the voiceless. “Dr. Balasanova’s difficult experiences as an Armenian childhood refugee motivated her to become an addiction psychiatrist and to care for patients in a compassionate way,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D. “After medical school at Harvard and a psychiatry residency at Boston University Medical Center, she returned to Nebraska, the state that welcomed her family years ago. Since her return, she is credited with developing and implementing a continuum of addiction psychiatry clinical services from the ground up.”

The AMAF Health Education Award was established to recognize the professional and public health education accomplishments of practicing physicians. The award was presented to Dr. Balasanova during the opening session of the 2020 Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates.


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