School of Medicine Offers Students Course in Chronic Pain Management

03/27/00    Portland, Ore.

Medical Students at Oregon's Only Medical School Learn About Treating Pain


OHSU's School of Medicine offers 90 medical students a Chronic Pain Management Seminar for the first time. Part of the course involves students taking medical histories from actors portraying patients with various chronic pain conditions.


Tuesday, March 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


OHSU's Old Library Auditorium

A 57-year-old man suffers from lower back pain so intense he can't work and can barely get out of bed. Unfortunately, this story is not unusual. Chronic pain is an extremely complex problem. In the past many physicians were not adequately instructed in the diagnosis of chronic pain, so pain traditionally has not been managed successfully. Starting next week, more than 90 third-year medical students at Oregon Health Sciences University's School of Medicine will get a lesson in just that - successfully managing chronic pain. The first Chronic Pain Management Seminar is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in OHSU's Old Library Auditorium.

"We felt our students needed additional attention in the clinical skills area of pain management. OHSU is fortunate to have a new curriculum for third-year medical students that allows us to offer this course when pain management is a concern to so many of us," says Edward J. Keenan, Ph.D., associate dean for medical education, OHSU's School of Medicine. "National surveys of medical school graduates, OHSU included, show the students welcome an additional emphasis on pain management."

The mandatory, all-day course takes a look at the clinical side of diagnosing pain. Paul B. Bascom, M.D., assistant professor of medicine (general internal medicine), OHSU's School of Medicine, and director of OHSU's comfort care team, will lead the seminar. The first lesson of the day is about the value of taking a patient's history. Bascom says diagnosis is the most important part of treating chronic pain patients because the pain is a symptom of so many different illnesses, such as fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, arthritis and cancer. During the course, students will break into small groups and spend more than two hours assessing different simulated patient scenarios. The cases include a 40-year-old woman with back and leg pain, a 35-year-old male with chronic headaches, and a 57-year-old man with low back pain.

"One of the most important and valuable lessons that I hope the students learn is the sense of suffering that these patients endure and the way pain impacts their lives," says Bascom. "It's exciting to give medical students real skills to help them better care for these patients."

After students take patient histories a panel will discuss the various therapies available to treat the pain. The discussion will be led by Bascom; Teresa C. Keane, R.N., P./M.H.N.P., a mental health nurse practitioner with an expertise in stress reduction and behavioral treatment for pain; and David M. Sibell, M.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology, OHSU's School of Medicine, and anesthesiologist in OHSU's Pain Management Clinic.

The course also will look at "Managing Difficult Issues in Caring for Chronic Pain Patients." The former medical director of the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners and adjunct associate professor of anesthesiology in OHSU's School of Medicine, James (Judge) S. Hicks, M.D., will lead a segment on "Staying Out of Trouble: Chronic Pain and the Board of Medical Examiners."

Unlike many medical schools across the country, last July OHSU's School of Medicine started offering a unique curriculum to all third-year medical students. The curriculum brings these students together for two days every six weeks. Keenan says this allows the school the flexibility to focus on topics, such as pain management, in a more timely fashion. As part of this curriculum, the school will now require a pain management course on an annual basis for all third-year medical students. The next seminar will be "Palliative Care at the End of Life" led by Bascom.