The new vice chancellor for Health Affairs for Statewide Initiatives at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Dr. David M. Stern, is taking initiative to battle the opioid epidemic.

Stern believe proper education, or lack thereof, is part of the problem. "There are many parts of fighting the opioid crisis, and our part is related to education and forming a network of providers," said Stern in an interview with Times Free Press. Thus, his proposed plan includes a standardized addiction medicine training program added to the curriculum.

The proposed training is essential across all medical specializations, the majority of those targeted will be early and future primary care physicians. Primary care physicians are typically a patient’s first contact but are not fully trained to treat addiction.

Opioid Addiction Training

University of Tennessee’s Center for Addiction Science was awarded as the first addiction medicine center of excellence in the country. The program, if deemed successful, could be implemented in medical schools across the nation.

The program would be mandatory and need to be completed for graduates and residents to practice medicine. To develop a standard knowledge base, students from Chattanooga, Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Jackson campuses at the UT College of Medicine will be given classroom and clinical training. Upon completion, medical fellows would be recruited and trained for a full year before they begin to practice medicine. Stern calls them the “backbone of the Tennessee Addiction Medicine Network (TAN)”.

The soon to be medical experts agree to work for the addiction program for three years. Fellows are promised loan forgiveness and a salary to cover training costs. To fund the program, Stern estimated that the school will need $25.1 million but will become fully self-sufficient after six years. In hopes to collect additional support, Stern is determined to present his proposal to medical leaders across the nation.

"This proposal would educate providers and help to put addiction specialists in a lot of practices around the state," Dr. Bruce Shack, dean of the UT College of Medicine in Chattanooga, said in an article by Times Free Press. "People look upon opioid addiction and dependency as a weakness and not an illness, which is really is, and it needs to be treated like an illness, and that's part of the education process for physicians."

Source: Times Free Press