This week, the White House announced additional steps to combat the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction. As part of that, several dozen medical schools— including some in Philadelphia — are pledging to revamp classes on prescribing opioids.
About 60 medical schools from around the country told the White House that, starting next semester, students must get some form of education on chronic pain and prescribing to graduate. Rowan's School of Osteopathic Medicine was on the list.
"When this came out, and the dean called me to say we're doing this, it allowed me then to really power my curriculum even more to say, 'Hey, we're now all agreeing that I'm as important as cardiology,'" said Dr. Richard Jermyn, director of the school's NeuroMusculoskeletal Institute. "So this curriculum is really important. And it's going to be that way in the country, so it's really a big deal."
When he first started out two decades ago, Jermyn said, there wasn't much in the way of any of this. But for the last 10 years, the school has a mandated pain course. In the fall, they'll be doubling the amount of time students spend in their clinical rotation for pain management.
The White House pledge includes incorporating new federal guidelines that urge doctors, especially those in primary care, to be more cautious when prescribing potentially addictive narcotics.
The two Philly schools that have signed on are the Perelman School of Medicine at the University Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Pledge or not, just about all schools are now addressing opioids in some way, said Tannaz Rasouli with the Association of American Medical Colleges.
"The vast majority of schools — 136 out of 141 surveyed in 2014 and 2015 — include content on substance abuse in one or more required classes in both preclinical coursework and through clinical rotation," said Rasouli, adding that the approaches vary.