Medical Schools Boost Pain Management Education

Congress and health officials have criticized medical schools for failing to teach doctors about pain management, but medical schools and residency programs are moving quickly to address the issue.

“[I]f you’re a veterinarian, you get much more training on how to address pain than if you’re a medical student,” said Nora Volkow, MD, director of that National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in Bethesda, Md., at a Senate hearing last week.

Congress and health officials have criticized medical schools for failing to teach doctors about pain management, but medical schools and residency programs are moving quickly to address the issue.

“[I]f you’re a veterinarian, you get much more training on how to address pain than if you’re a medical student,” said Nora Volkow, MD, director of that National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in Bethesda, Md., at a Senate hearing last week.

Students in veterinary schools spend five times as many education hours focused on pain management as students in medical schools, she said.

A 2011 study in The Journal of Pain found that U.S. medical schools allot a median of 9 teaching hours on pain and its management, compared to a median of 19.5 hours in Canada. In the U.S., that’s approximately 0.3% of the total curriculum hours.

Terence “Terry” Flotte MD, dean of the School of Medicine, provost, and executive deputy chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) in Worcester, Mass., spoke about the changes to his school’s curriculum at a briefing hosted by the Association of American Medical Colleges here last week.

In September, Flotte met with Gov. Charlie Baker (R- Mass.), Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and three other medical school deans to discuss the prescription drug crisis.

In Massachusetts, opioid related deaths have more than doubled over the last decade.

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