University of New England Neuroscientist and Pain Expert to Receive National Patient Advocacy Award

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The award by the American Academy for Pain Medicine recognizes UNE Professor Edward Bilsky's work on the neuroscience of pain, and his advocacy for individuals suffering from acute and chronic pain.

University of New England Professor Edward Bilsky, Ph.D., 2014 recipient of the AAPM Patient Advocacy Award

Dr. Bilsky is creating an important record of patient art and narrative that, in combination with his outstanding work in the neuroscience of pain and sensation, offers a range of understanding from molecule to experience. -- Scott M. Fishman, M.D.

Edward Bilsky, Ph.D., University of New England vice president for research and scholarship, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Patient Advocacy Award by the American Academy for Pain Medicine (AAPM). The award will be presented March 8th during AAPM’s annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Patient Advocacy Award recognizes activity of an individual in advocating for appropriate evaluation and treatment of patients suffering from pain. This award was created to honor those healthcare professionals whose deeds reflect their recognition of the importance and impact of the specialty of pain medicine.

Bilsky is a professor of pharmacology in UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine. He is also the founder and co-director of UNE Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences.

"Dr. Bilsky has coordinated a remarkable program at the University of New England that engages patients in detailing their experience with pain through both art and narrative," says Scott M. Fishman, M.D., chief of the Division of Pain Medicine and vice chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

Fishman adds that "this program uniquely highlights pain in a humane way that has great potential for improving how society understands pain and pain patients. Dr. Bilsky is creating an important record of patient art and narrative that, in combination with his outstanding work in the neuroscience of pain and sensation, offers a range of understanding from molecule to experience. This is a great achievement that deserves recognition as substantially empowering patients in pain who often feel forgotten or overlooked."

Bilsky has worked with many others inside and outside UNE to educate future health care professionals on the neurobiology of pain and to increase public awareness about acute and chronic pain.

In his role of professor of pharmacology at UNE since 2001, he has taught classes on pain medicine for the College of Osteopathic Medicine, the College of Pharmacy, and the nurse anesthesia, physician assistant, physical therapy and nursing programs.

He has also been an advocate for introducing pain into UNE's curriculum through an interprofessional approach. He has served as co-chair of the last two InterProfessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) spring symposia, including the 2013 event entitled "The Science of Pain and the Art of Healing," featuring national experts on pain, as well as community members, activists and artists suffering from pain.

Events and outcomes related to the symposium included a series of videos, titled Portraits of Pain, that profile four community members who suffer from chronic pain and an exhibition of pain-related art work at Engine, a gallery run by a Biddeford non-profit arts group. The Engine collaboration also featured several programs for the public, especially children, on the brain and brain safety, including a helmet give-away sponsored by the Michael Goulet Foundation.

Bilsky's collaboration with faculty and UNE's IPEC and Center for Excellence in Interprofessional Education also led to a Maine Cancer Foundation grant to improve awareness of the special challenges of treatment of cancer-related pain. UNE is using the grant to develop interprofessional case studies, standardized patient simulations, and patient narratives that will focus on improving patient-provider communication and cancer pain management while raising patient and community awareness of the problem.

As founder and co-director of UNE's Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences, Bilsky has facilitated and fostered research on pain and brought researchers and experts from around the nation and the world to UNE to present seminars on a variety of pain issues and research. His own research on opioid pharmacology has garnered over $5 million of extramural funding and has resulted in over 70 peer-reviewed publications and hundreds of professional presentations.

Bilsky is also a co-investigator, with Professor Ian Meng, Ph.D., principal investigator, of a $10 million National Institutes of Health grant to found the UNE Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for the Study of Pain and Sensory Function. COBRE aims to significantly contribute to the scientific understanding of the neurobiology of chronic pain and sensory function, facilitating the discovery and development of new therapies.

Outreach to local schools is also an important part of Bilsky’s vision for the Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences. The center's K-12 program, headed by Mike Burman, Ph.D., engages teachers and more than 3,000 students from five local school systems each year with grade-appropriate content related to the nervous system and the brain.

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Kathleen Taggersell
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