The UNM Hospital Pain Clinic and the Health Sciences Center’s Project ECHO Chronic Pain and Headache Clinic were recently selected by the American Pain Society (APS) to receive its prestigious 2011 Center of Excellence Award. The national award is presented annually to recognize pain-care teams that overcome difficult challenges to provide outstanding, exemplary care for those with chronic pain disorders, acute pain after surgery or trauma and in palliative care settings for pain from cancer and other terminal conditions.

Co-medical directors of the interdisciplinary clinics are Joanna Katzman, MD, MSPH, assistant professor, Neurology, and George Comerci, M.D., associate professor, Department of Medicine. Jeannie Boyle, RN, BSN is Nurse Manager for the Project ECHO clinic.

“We are honored to be the recipients of the Society’s Center of Excellence award,” said Dr. Katzman. “We know that chronic pain is one of the most common medical complaints. At the same time, it is one of the most difficult conditions to address.”

The UNM Pain Center treats patients with complex pain who are referred by providers throughout the state. At its heart is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary chronic pain program that is unique within New Mexico.

Pain treatment is one of the most common complaints patients address with their physicians. Yet it can be a complicated condition with multiple roots and symptoms. Complaints range from neck pain to low back pain, degenerative diseases of the spine, diabetic neuropathy to myofascial pain.

“We know that very few patients respond to just one treatment model,” said Katzman. “Yet the earlier you are able to treat these patients, the more effective you can be. And, some of these patients have suffered for years without relief. In many instances, overlapping conditions develop such as depression or anxiety.”

Within the clinic, patients can see healthcare providers from a number of specialties, from primary and specialty care physicians to physical therapists and mental health professionals.

The complex nature of pain treatment also means that vulnerable rural populations often are unable to access state-of-the-art pain management services. Moving from patient care to training, Albuquerque’s novel, patient-centered Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) Chronic Pain and Headache TeleECHO Clinic addresses this deficiency by offering primary care clinicians (PCCs) and other healthcare providers a weekly didactic pain curriculum and opportunity to present difficult chronic pain cases to the UNM pain team via teleconferencing.

The TeleECHO clinic brings patient-centered expertise at no charge to rural communities through local PCCs who are sensitive to their patients’ cultural diversities; 150 cases were discussed in the past year, and the telehealth initiative is being modeled in other states. The New Mexico Medical Board endorsed this clinic as a model to provide safe, effective pain management and balance in opiate prescribing.

PCCs are offered two-day training at UNM, which promotes networking and provides access to pain experts.

The American Pain Society Clinical Centers of Excellence in Pain Management Awards Program helps advance the quality of pain management in the United States by recognizing and rewarding excellence in quality clinical care.

Central to the APS vision is “a world where pain prevention and relief are available to all people.” The program aims to identify U.S.-based, multidisciplinary teams providing distinguished, comprehensive pain care to serve as examples to other pain management programs.
Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322