Responding to the Opioid Epidemic Through Education, Patient Care, and Research

The Issue

The rate of overdose related to prescription painkillers and other opioids within the U.S. has increased. 91 Americans die each day from opioid overdose (including prescription opioids and heroin), according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Communities, both urban and rural, are facing an opioid epidemic.

The Response

In response to the crisis in their communities and nationwide, AAMC member institutions are actively working to advance medical research, education, and clinical care that addresses the opioid epidemic. Medical educators are enhancing existing coursework in pain management and substance abuse in innovative ways. While students are exposed to this material through multiple modalities in medical school, to be maximally effective, such experiences are also being reinforced throughout the continuum of medical education, including in residency training, clinical experiences, and continuing education for practicing physicians. AAMC member institutions are also promoting innovations in patient care, conducting cutting-edge research into substance use disorders and pain management, and providing community education programs and events.

Read the op-ed by AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, in the Huffington Post
Read the article in the Marshall Journal of Medicine by AAMC Chief Academic Officer John Prescott, MD
View the issue brief on how AAMC member institutions are responding to the opioid epidemic
Read the AAMC's letter to the House Ways and Means Committee's request for input on opioid policy recommendations

Read further coverage of various aspects of academic medicine's response to the opioid epidemic:
Students Learn to Treat Pain, with and without Opioids—AAMCNews
Caring for Babies with Opioid Withdrawal—AAMCNews
Bringing Medical Help to Rural Areas Overwhelmed by Opioid Abuse—AAMCNews
Medical Schools Confront Opioid Crisis with Greater Focus on Pain, Addiction Education—AAMCNews
Stemming the Opioid Epidemic—AAMCNews
Interest in Medication-Assisted Treatment is Growing as a Means to Curb Opioid Epidemic—AAMCNews
Medical Schools Engage Communities and Stakeholders in Response to Opioid Epidemic—AAMC Web Exclusive

Convening Educators, Highlighting Innovative Practices, and Assisting in Meeting Needs

The AAMC is actively working to support the work of its member institutions by sharing successful practices, approaches, and responses among educators, clinicians, and future physicians. As part of this effort, and in response to ongoing assessments of the needs of the academic medicine community, the AAMC has developed a series of strategic activities to further enhance collaboration and sharing of educational responses.

  • AAMC National Workshop to Advance Medical Education to Combat Opioid Misuse: Working Together Across the Continuum
    The AAMC is hosting a national workshop in May 2019 – in collaboration with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), and supported, in part, by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – to bring together teams of representatives from medical schools and teaching hospitals, as well as individuals from other stakeholder organizations, to advance educational content related to pain and addiction within undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education.
  • Curricular Innovation Awards
    In October 2018, the AAMC awarded four Curricular Innovation Awards, also funded, in part, by the Samueli Foundation, recognizing the leadership of medical education programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education levels that provide innovative pain, substance use and addiction training, including non-pharmacological approaches to patient care. The awardees are:
    • University of Massachusetts Medical School
    • University of Michigan School of Medicine
    • Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS)
    • Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University

Representatives from these institutions have been invited to publish their curricular resources and will be celebrated guests at the national workshop. The AAMC will open a second call for submissions of curricular innovations after the conclusion of the national workshop.

  • Challenge Grants
    In the coming months, the AAMC will announce a call for submissions for challenge grants. Five awards of $25,000 each, funded, in part, by the Samueli Foundation, will be made to institutions who seek to develop resources to support the collaborative efforts of educators across the medical education continuum.

Webinar Series

To share practices being implemented to respond to the opioid epidemic across medical schools and teaching hospitals, in early 2017, the AAMC held a series of webinars examining how academic medicine is responding to this troubling epidemic. Each webinar focuses on a different aspect of the response by medical schools and teaching hospitals, including patient care, to research, to medical education.

View the recording of the Jan. 24, 2017 webinar “The Opioid Epidemic: Addressing the Patient Care Continuum through Academic Medicine” 

View the recording of the Feb. 27, 2017 webinar focusing on research, "Parallel Crises: The Over and Under Prescription of Opioids"

View the recordings of the webinar sub-series focusing on responses across the medical education continuum, "Innovative Educational Approaches to Safe Opiate Prescribing and Pain Management" 

Capitol Hill Briefings

October 17, 2017
"Care in The Face of the Opioid Epidemic: How Medical Schools and Teaching Hospitals are Reaching Underserved Communities," a congressional breifing hosted by the AAMC and the Congressional Academic Medicine Caucus, presented examples of how teaching hosptials are providing treatment for patients with substance use disorders in light of the opioid epidemic. Panelists described innovative techniques to increase access to nalaxone and medication-assisted treatment, partnerships with local communities and other organizations, and models of how to provide comprehensive addiction and substance use care.

Read a summary of the briefing

January 28, 2016
The AAMC and the Congressional Academic Medicine Caucus hosted a Capitol Hill Briefing titled "How Medical Schools and Teaching Hospitals are Addressing the Opioid Epidemic,” focused on the role of academic medicine in the response to the opioid epidemic and to other related public health issues. Panelists described how training at medical schools and teaching hospitals exposes students and residents to firsthand experiences with innovative clinical care and research efforts aimed at tackling the most pressing community health challenges.

Read a summary of the briefing
Watch the video recording
Watch the Panel Perspectives video

For More Information Contact:
Tannaz Rasouli
Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
Telephone: 202-828-0525