NEWS | March 29, 2016

School of Medicine joins national effort to improve prescriber education

White House initiative follows CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain


UC Davis School of Medicine today joined with more than 60 other medical schools in a pledge to require their students to take some form of prescriber education, in line with the newly released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, in order to graduate.

The pledge was part of today’s National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, where President Obama announced a series of actions, including the commitment to improving future physicians’ education, to address the prescription opioid abuse and heroin epidemic. 

“The federal effort to tackle the nation’s opioid abuse problem is critically important to public health and patient safety,” said Julie Freischlag, vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences at UC Davis and dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine. “For the past five years, as part of our school’s focused curriculum, UC Davis has introduced medical students to the problems of substance abuse and addiction, including opiate dependence. We are committed to preparing future clinicians so they have the awareness and education to treat chronic pain but avoid prescription abuse and life-threatening drug dependence.”

For UC Davis medical students, prescriber education begins in their first year with a training course on how to interview patients with substance abuse and addiction problems such as opiate dependence. The students learn how to promote "behavior change," which is intended to address addiction through the doctor-patient relationship and skilled interviewing. The course consists of lectures and small group cases, using standardized patients with addiction problems, including an opiate-dependent chronic pain patient that they work with during their second year of medical school.

Earlier this month, as part of the U.S. government’s response to the epidemic of overdose deaths, the CDC issued new recommendations for prescribing opioid medications for chronic pain, excluding cancer, palliative, and end-of-life care to help primary care providers ensure the safest and most effective treatment for their patients. The guidelines align closely with additional medical education and training efforts underway at UC Davis.

Leveraging the vast expertise of scholars and scientists in medicine, nursing and other health science disciplines, the university also plans to launch a new research effort in the coming month that will be dedicated to tackling pain. The program will be led by Scott Fishman, professor of anesthesiology and chief of the UC Davis Division of Pain Medicine, and Heather M. Young, associate vice chancellor for nursing and founding dean of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis. They helped establish UC Davis’ Interprofessional Pain Management Competency Program in 2011, which was designed to create core competencies for learners.

One of the outcomes of the new program will be a series of learning modules intended to teach interprofessional pain management competencies to teams consisting of nursing, pharmacy, social work and medical students.

“Addressing the nation’s growing opioid epidemic must be a priority for every health professional,” added Freischlag. “Training the next generation of health-care providers is a crucial component in that effort.  Medical and nursing students who graduate from UC Davis will soon be on the frontlines of patient care. Our top priority is a curriculum and access to programs that prepare them for that.”