Margie Skeer Appointed to Named Professorship

The inaugural Weiner Hailey Family Professor researches substance-misuse prevention at the School of Medicine
Margie Skeer, associate professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, received the Weiner Hailey Family Professorship.
Margie Skeer, associate professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, received the Weiner Hailey Family Professorship. Photo: Alonso Nichols
November 4, 2019

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Margie Skeer, associate professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Weiner Hailey Family Professorship, established by Ken Weiner, A73, M77, and Anita Hailey of Denver, Colorado. Skeer, whose research focuses on family-based prevention strategies for substance misuse, will be the first Tufts faculty member to hold the term professorship.

“By creating the Weiner Hailey Family Professorship, Ken and Anita are bringing new capability and strength to the medical school and advancing the invaluable work of a leading scholar,” said Harris Berman, dean of Tufts School of Medicine. “Their gift, and Dr. Skeer’s work, will have far-reaching impact on understanding and preventing substance misuse and addiction.”

Receiving a term professorship to support her work is an honor, Skeer said, and “elevates awareness of my research across the Tufts community and in my field.” The funds will enable her to pursue promising work in key areas, including the role of family meals in reducing substance-related risks, and improving screening practices for opioid prescription, to better identify patients and risk factors that current screenings may miss.

“The opioid epidemic has elevated the prevention of substance-use disorder to a public health priority,” said Aviva Must, dean of Public Health and Professional Degree Programs at the School of Medicine. “Dr. Skeer’s research on family-based interventions for pre-adolescents stands to make important contributions to this crucial effort. She brings passion, insight, and practicality to her research, and to the classroom, where she informs and inspires our public health students.”

Addressing the addiction epidemic, through prevention

The professorship gift reflects many of Weiner and Hailey’s shared interests, including mental health, research, and a deeply personal connection to substance abuse and recovery.

“Our son battled addiction in his early twenties,” Hailey explained, and was “one of the lucky ones” who found treatment. His recovery led him to the field of social work and a passion for addiction prevention and treatment. Supporting a child through addiction can be frightening and isolating for any family, Hailey noted, yet seeing their son find his purpose in life has been “a joy to watch,” and deepened their own commitment to helping others.

Weiner and Hailey consider themselves partners in careers, family, and philanthropy. Weiner, a double Jumbo who graduated from the School of Medicine in 1977, is a psychiatrist and widely respected leader in eating disorder treatment. He is the founder, former CEO and current executive chairman of Eating Recovery Centers (ERC), an internationally known program for treatment of severe eating disorders, with thirty centers in seven states. Describing his career’s blend of clinical work and entrepreneurship, he said, “I was trained to be a psychiatrist; I was born to be a business person.”

Hailey was born in Europe, to an Indian mother and an Austrian father. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Vienna. Her parents were diplomats, and her mother was among the first Indian women to serve in the United Nations. While Weiner has focused on leading ERC, Hailey focuses her time on their home and family. The couple affectionately describe ERC as their “fifth child.”

This spring, Weiner and Hailey attended a School of Medicine event that featured several faculty speakers, including Skeer. “Her intellect, passion, and commitment to substance abuse research” immediately resonated with their interests, Weiner said. It was a memorable meeting for Skeer, as well: “Right after my lecture they introduced themselves and wanted to learn more about my work,” she said, and they have remained warmly supportive “every step of the way.” Skeer said she is humbled by their generosity, and particularly grateful for their commitment to prevention research, which does not readily attract funding. While prevention studies may lack the compelling immediacy of treatment, Skeer explained, they are the foundation of future treatment and prevention strategies. Weiner concurred: “Research takes the long view. . .and that makes confidence in the researcher all the more important. Dr. Skeer is very committed to identifying what sort of early interventions can make a difference and reduce the epidemic of addiction in this country.”