University of South Florida

MCOM receives grant to bolster pain management curriculum

More than 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain.  In June 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine publication on “Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic reported that drug overdose is now the leading cause of death from unintentional injury in the U.S., mostly involving either prescribed or illegal non-prescribed opioids.

To better prepare future doctors for this reality, the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine was recently awarded a $250,000 grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families to evaluate and adjust pain management and opioid stewardship curriculum across all four years of medical school.

“The country doesn’t have an opioid problem.  It has an addiction problem,” said Deborah DeWaay, MD, FACP, associate dean of MCOM’s Undergraduate Medical Education and Department of Medical Education.  “We have to destigmatize the notion that being an addict is a choice.  Addiction is a medical condition and should be treated as such.”

MCOM’s Department of Medical Education will immediately implement several changes in the fourth year of medical school, according to Dr. DeWaay.  The fourth year was the perfect place to start as students will see patients more regularly as they prepare for residency.

“It’s not until the fourth year of medical school that students’ minds are primed to absorb the material regarding pain management and opioid prescription,” Dr. DeWaay said. “The first three years of medical school are for preparing them to absorb the material and apply it in their fourth year.”

The next step is to evaluate the curriculum through the first three years and determine where changes need to be made.  Helping the DME through the process is pain management expert John Maye, PhD, CRNA, professor and pain management education coordinator for the USF Health College of Nursing.  Dr. Maye says medical schools have come under heavy scrutiny from health and government officials for the amount of time on in-depth pain management content.  Since about 2012, there has been a movement within medical schools to address the deficit by increasing training in medical school, and offering more education for physicians trying to renew their licenses.

“The leadership here at USF Health is very driven and motivated to change this and I’ve been extremely impressed with how they’ve made this happen,” said Dr. Maye.

A task force commissioned by the Council of Florida Medical School Deans developed the “Framework for Developing Core Competencies on Pain Management and Opioid Stewardship Education” to provide a set of core competencies to guide individual medical schools as they incorporate the material into their existing curriculum.  The framework addresses four key areas of learning to include the interprofessional and multidisciplinary approaches to treatment.

In 2016, opioid overdose attributed to more than 42,000 deaths nationwide, and 2,800 deaths in Florida. Statistics like this are the driving force behind why Florida medical schools continue to revisit how they educate their future health care providers.

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