Alumnus aims to manage opioid use among patients

WVSOM groups have been working closely with national organizations in order to combat the opioid problem in West Virginia. For example, the school's Center for Rural and Community Health worked with other organizations to create and develop an opioid toolkit, designed to bring awareness to the rising epidemic in the state and offer resources for those trying to recover.

The toolkit has been presented at the West Virginia Rural Health Conference and the National Rural Health Association's annual conference, and as a result, has been used as a model for other areas of the state, slowly being replicated in all 55 counties.

One WVSOM alumnus is also trying to do his part in managing opioid use and chronic pain. Brian Yee, D.O., Class of 2006, is board certified in anesthesiology and pain management. He previously worked at the Center for Pain Relief in Beckley. Now practicing at Tidelands Health in Murrells Inlet, S.C., Yee said it's fulfilling finding nonnarcotic options to treat pain.

"I initially liked the idea of helping to take care of patients in the peri-operative period and subsequently ended up liking the interventional pain management aspects of anesthesiology," he said. "The challenges I run into with pain management is patients often have expectations as to how they were treated before, with pain medication being the first and only option given to them.

As a pain consultant, I try to educate medical providers and patients to let them know there are other options out there other than addictive medications that have side effects that could be life threatening."

Aside from low-dose medication, other suggestions for managing pain can include physical therapy and acupuncture. In some surgeries, for instance with orthopedic surgeries, spine blocks and nerve blocks can be used to help with joint pain or postoperative pain, Yee said.

"As an interventional pain physician, I try to find modalities such as injections, spinal cord stimulation or pump therapies, rather than opioid pain medications. These treatment options are interventional in nature and focused toward treating the pain in a safer manner. It's a re-education process for both the referring physicians, as well as the patients themselves."

Yee said that it can be difficult to appropriately offer pain management to patients when many factors are stacked against an interventional physician, including incentives for pharmaceutical reps, the misconception that pain medication and the correlated risk of addiction are low, and hospital reimbursement being effected based on patient satisfaction.

However, during the past few years, West Virginia legislative efforts to curb opioid use have been implemented with this year having some of the strictest anti-opioid laws to date passed in the U.S., Yee said. Though there is still work to be done in raising awareness about the opioid problems in West Virginia, alternative interventional pain management by doctors like Yee, and education from resources such as WVSOM's toolkit, may help to work toward alleviating those problems.

Date Added: 
Friday, January 4, 2019