Drs. William L. Dewey and Charles O’Keeffe honored by NIDA


A pair of professors from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology have been selected as 2014 winners of awards of excellence from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s International Program.

William L. Dewey, Ph.D., professor and department chair, received a special recognition award for excellence in scientific accomplishments and for his devoted service to the addiction research community. Charles O’Keeffe, M.B.A., professor, received the Award of Excellence in International Leadership for his role in advising three U.S. presidents on international health and drug policy issues and as a frequent consultant to the World Health Organization and other U.N. agencies.

The NIDA International Program works with colleagues from around the world to find evidence-based solutions to the public health problems of drug abuse, addiction and drug-related HIV/AIDS. Its Awards of Excellence winners are selected based on contributions to areas essential to the mission of the NIDA International Program: mentoring, international leadership and collaborative research. The awards were announced on June 14 at the 19th annual NIDA International Forum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“The 2014 Awards of Excellence winners are dedicated and experienced leaders in the international effort to advance drug abuse research and training,” said Steven W. Gust, Ph.D., director of the NIDA International Program. “This year’s winners have helped to prepare international scientists to work together across international borders and to lead the way for key scientific breakthroughs.”

William L. Dewey, Ph.D.

The Louis S. and Ruth S. Harris Professor and Chair
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Dewey’s research – funded by the National Institutes of Health for more than 45 years – focuses on the mechanisms of action of opioids and marijuana that change brain function and contribute to tolerance, dependence and addiction. He helped discover the role of endogenous opioids in sudden infant death syndrome and also investigates the effects of drugs on pain, cardiovascular alterations and respiratory depression.

He founded and leads the nonprofit Friends of NIDA, a coalition of individuals, scientific and professional societies and patient groups that supports the work of the institute. He has twice served as president of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and received the CPDD Distinguished Service Award in 2009. NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., presented Dewey with the NIDA Public Service Award in 2004, the same year he received the Commonwealth of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award in Science. Dewey received the VCU Presidential Medallion in 2012.

“While Dr. Dewey’s scientific contributions are significant, his service to the addiction research community is extraordinary,” said Gust. “His innovative educational briefings for members of Congress and their aides provide science-based information about addiction that helps improve U.S. drug policy.”

Charles O’Keeffe, M.B.A.
Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and in the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies

In addition to advising three U.S. presidents on international health and drug policy issues, O’Keeffe served as deputy director for international affairs of the Office of Drug Abuse Policy under President Jimmy Carter. He played a key role in securing U.S. approval for the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances and served on U.S. delegations to the World Health Assembly and the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs. He has been a frequent consultant to the World Health Organization and other U.N. agencies.

During his career as a pharmaceutical company executive, O’Keeffe worked with NIDA scientists and government officials in France and the U.S. to secure approval for buprenorphine to treat opioid dependence. He also developed the first abuse-resistant packaging for take-home doses of methadone and ran the largest clinical toxicology laboratory in the United States. At VCU, O’Keeffe worked with colleagues from King’s College London and the University of Adelaide in Australia to create the International Programme in Addiction Studies, an online master’s degree program.

“Professor O’Keeffe has worked tirelessly to educate policymakers, law enforcement officials and health care professionals around the globe about addiction policy and treatment,” said Gust. “His work with the International Programme in Addiction Studies prepares its international students to become leaders in translating addiction research into effective treatment, prevention and policy.”

Three other individuals were awarded 2014 NIDA International Awards of Excellence. Dennis McCarty, Ph.D., a professor at Oregon Health & Sciences University, was honored for Excellence in Mentoring. The award for Excellence in Collaborative Research went to Marek C. Chawarski, Ph.D., Yale School of Medicine and Vicknasingam B Kasinather, Ph.D., Universiti Sains Malaysia.