Penn's Perelman School of Medicine Selected by NIH as Center of Excellence in Pain Education

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Media Contact:Jessica Mikulski | jessica.mikulski@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-349-8369May 30, 2012

The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and School of Dental Medicine, has been designated a national Center of Excellence in Pain Education (CoEPEs) by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"Pain is one of the primary reasons that patients seek medical care," said John T. Farrar, MD, PhD, co-principal investigator of the new center and associate professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Penn. "Learning how to properly diagnose the underlying cause and how to effectively treat both acute and chronic pain needs to be an important focus of medical education. The interprofessional collaboration between three Penn schools in this endeavor is pivotal to our mission to help redefine pain education in the U.S. health care system and improve the lives of all of our patients."

Chronic pain affects approximately 100 million Americans, costing up to $635 billion in medical treatment and lost productivity, and producing immeasurable suffering for people of every age. Yet, pain treatment is not taught extensively in many health professional schools, and clinical approaches can be inconsistent.

As one of 11 CoEPEs in the country, Penn will act as hub for the development, evaluation, and distribution of pain management curriculum resources for medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy schools to enhance and improve how health care professionals are taught about pain and its treatment.

The curricula developed by the CoEPEs will advance the assessment, diagnosis, and safe treatment of a wide variety of pain conditions while striving to minimize the availability of opioid pain relievers to those who would abuse them. Innovative approaches to case-based scenarios will include video simulation and electronic game formats that are just being introduced into contemporary academic settings. Types of pain of particular interest to the NIH Pain Consortium are rehabilitation pain, arthritis and musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain, and headache pain. In addition, the curricula will teach about the pathophysiology and pharmacology of pain, the application of the available scientific evidence to its treatment, the latest research in complementary and integrative pain management, factors that contribute to both under- and over-prescribing of pain medications, and how pain manifests itself differently by gender, in children, in older adults and in diverse populations.

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