Letters to the Editor
To the Editor: Approximately 50 million people in the United States suffer from persistent pain,1 and pain treatment cuts across most medical disciplines. Despite huge strides in understanding pain, there is a major gap between that understanding and pain diagnosis and treatment. In the 21st century, pain management is being accepted as a basic human right.2 Thus, it is even more important to train medical students to be competent in the areas of pain assessment and treatment. However, few physicians graduating from U.S. medical schools have had comprehensive multidisciplinary pain education as part of their medical school curricula. This was shown in an AAMC survey in 2000–2001, which found that only 3% of medical schools had a separate course in pain management in their curricula1; the situation is not much better today. Although a free, Internet-based CD-ROM textbook on pain was developed for medical students in 2003 by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, we feel there is an urgent need for formal pain management training within the medical school curriculum.
Pain education in medical schools could be in the form of pain symposiums, pain workshops, lecture series, and clinical rotations in pain management, according to what is available and feasible in each school. Interinstitutional elective rotations in pain management and summer research projects with resulting research publications in pain should also be encouraged. Funding for the latter is available from, for example, Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research grants to medical students from the American Society of Anesthesiologists. We at Yale have incorporated formal pain education into our curriculum using a multidisciplinary pain symposium at the second-year level with case studies for third- and fourth-year students.
We believe that medical schools worldwide should establish formal pain management education in each year of their curricula. This will enable graduating physicians everywhere to be well equipped to ease their patients’ pain.
Nalini Vadivelu, MD
Associate professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut; (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Fifth-year medical student, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Roberta L. Hines, MD
Professor and chair, Department of Anesthesiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
1 Mitka M. “Virtual textbook” on pain developed: Effort seeks to remedy gap in medical education. JAMA. 2003;290:2395.
2 Brennan F, Carr D, Cousins M. Pain management: A fundamental human right. Anesth Analg. 2007;105:205–221.