This article is the ninth in a series about the epidemic of opioid addiction and how NEOMED is training future physicians and pharmacists to help.
“Reversing the Opioid Epidemic” was the theme for this year’s National Advocacy Week in October. Two student interest groups at NEOMED—the American Medical Association (AMA) Ohio State Medical Association Medical Students Section, and the Public Health Interest Group—presented five events so that NEOMED students could better understand the opioid crisis.
In a presentation on the opioid epidemic, Douglas Smith, M.D., medical director and chief clinical officer of the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Board, opened students’ eyes to what is happening across the country, and here in Ohio. Dr. Smith quantified the epidemic by noting that from 1999-2010, the number of drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased 372 percent. That number is not a typo.
“Like every other person, I knew the epidemic was bad, but Dr. Smith was able to quantify the problem. Since Ohio is one of the states most affected by the opioid crisis, it is especially important for the NEOMED community to comprehend what is going on, says Kathrina Consing, a first-year College of Medicine student.
“When I worked at a major hospital in Cleveland, I saw the effect the crisis is having on patients’ care. From recovering opioid addicts refusing to take opiates to manage their post-operative pain to patients in the ICU with unusually high tolerance to opiates, requiring high doses of fentanyl to keep them comfortable, the problem with opioids in the area is evident,” says Consing.
Making the Leap
Hari Iyer, a second-year College of Medicine student who helped organize the week of opioid advocacy events at NEOMED, is grateful for the support of the student organizations that brought the events to the University. Iyer says these educational events are critical in helping students make the leap from the classroom to the communities they serve, where opioid use destroys lives.
“Person-centric care pervades our NEOMED culture. And the opioid epidemic is a primary health concern in our local patient populations that requires such care.
At the beginning of our medical school training, we’ve already learned key lessons that future physicians must retain to treat addiction—more appropriately known as substance use disorder,” says Iyer.
“We learn that in the natural history of this chemical dependence, legal and work-related transgressions come much after patients begin to experience the disease. In our NEOMED training, we lay a foundation for why we must communicate with patients, and why we should screen and treat rather than stigmatize and ignore them,’’ Iyer explains.
Consing adds, “In Foundations of Clinical Medicine coursework, we are taught to listen to our patients and hear their story. As future health care professionals, students are given the privilege of helping those individuals put the pieces of their story back together.”
–Kathrina Consing (M1) and Hari Iyer (M2) contributed to this report.