Taking the Pain Away

PREP Program students are a special group of altruistic people. Many felt compelled to join the program after witnesses the suffering caused by pain on a professional or personal level.

These students know there is much more that can be done to alleviate this public health crisis, and want to be the ones to make that change.

As a pharmacist, James Krasnow, BS, RPh, C-PREP ’08, often dealt with pain, but only on a basic level. He now runs the pain program for a 600-bed visiting nurse group and service three hospices.

For James, “working on the reduction of pain to me is as meaningful as trying to find the cure for the worst disease.”

Meridith Lawrence, RPh, CPE, MS-PREP ’04, admits she has a passion for relieving pain.

The “go to” person for pain information and expertise, she is a founding member of the palliative care team and the pediatric pain task force at her institution, and the pharmacist who represents information on analgesics to the pharmacy and therapeutics committee. Meridith is also writing a pain protocol for ambulatory clinics that will guide a physician-run pain consultation services.

As the founder of Stress Resources, LLC, Pamela Katz Ressler, RN, BSN, HN-BC, MS-PREP ’11, joined the program to increase her knowledge of the complex pain issues facing her patients.

A big fan of social media and the administrator of the PREP Program’s blog, Pam says, “I look forward to using my new skills and professional network to establish increased tools of connections between patients and caregivers."

For Sherry Brink, RN, MS-PREP ’11, the planning she did for her capstone project on pain management in Peru motivated her to continue to visit another country every year to understand how pain management methods differs across the globe. “To treat a patient’s pain effectively is wonderful. It’s part of why I stay in nursing.”

According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, chronic pain affects more Americans than heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined. Medical treatment and lost productivity caused by pain costs the nation $635 billion each year.

However, despite the burden it imposes on society, pain has long been a stepchild of medicine, viewed as a symptom rather than a disease. It is only in the past ten years that pain is being acknowledged as a public health problem, and access to pain management has emerged as a fundamental human right.

In 1999, anesthesiologist/internist Daniel Carr, MD, and medical sociologist Kathryn Lasch, PhD, both pain experts, decided it was time to address the lack of understanding among health care providers and other practitioners in how to properly treat pain.

Together they launched the Pain Research, Education, and Policy (PREP) Program at TUSM, the first and only multidisciplinary postgraduate pain curriculum of its kind in the United States. Today, the faculty has grown to include world-renowned scientists and clinicians who have devoted their careers to studying and alleviating pain in all its forms.

The diverse backgrounds of its founders are still reflected in the current mission of the PREP Program--to address the public health burden of pain from a multidimensional perspective.

Dr. Carr, currently the PREP Program Director, believes the hurried, depersonalized world of modern medicine constantly threatens to extinguish the innate compassion of health professionals.

Based on the idea that teaching about pain in the same manner as anatomy or biochemistry misses something fundamental to the problem, the PREP Program curriculum provides a broad range of courses from neuroanatomy and pharmacology to health policy and ethics.

The PREP Program student body is a unique one for a medical school; many students are mid-career professionals who want to deepen their knowledge of pain studies.

The program enrolls traditional health care providers, such as nurses and physicians, alternative health care providers like acupuncturists and massage therapists, as well as social workers, health advocates, and other professionals--all with wide-ranging personal and professional interests.

Despite these differing backgrounds, they are united by a deep commitment to applying the most rigorous standards of knowledge and evidence to alleviate the suffering of others.