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White House lauds medical school for efforts fighting opioid epidemic

Richard Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine at UB and vice chair for addiction medicine, addresses students on opioid addiction. Photo: Douglas Levere

By ELLEN GOLDBAUM

Published March 29, 2016

“Long before opioid addiction became a front-page issue, faculty in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences were leaders in developing formal curricula to teach medical students, residents and fellows how to prevent and treat addiction”
Michael Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB is among medical schools nationwide that are at the forefront of fighting the opioid epidemic, according to a fact sheet released today by the White House.

The fact sheet was issued in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s announcement today of steps being taken by private sector organizations and medical schools to combat the misuse and abuse of opioids. Medical schools have pledged to require their students to take some form of prescriber education, in line with the recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, in order to graduate.

“Long before opioid addiction became a front-page issue, faculty in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences were leaders in developing formal curricula to teach medical students, residents and fellows how to prevent and treat addiction,” said Michael Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Those efforts were led in large part by Richard Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine at UB and vice chair for addiction medicine, who sees patients through UBMD Family Medicine.

“UB was an early adopter in terms of instructing our students on safe prescribing,” said Blondell.

In addition to instructing medical students, Blondell and other physicians in addiction medicine have worked to get the field approved as an established subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties; that happened earlier this month.

“The approval of this subspecialty creates a pipeline of trained addiction medicine doctors who have undergone rigorous training program and passed rigorous exams, all of which documents that they are, indeed experts in preventing and treating addiction,” said Blondell.

Kevin Kunz, MD, past president of the American Board of Addiction medicine, noted that Blondell and colleagues at UB played a key role.

Earlier this month, Blondell was recognized at a meeting of the American Board of Addiction Medicine for his role in getting addiction medicine recognized as a subspecialty and in creating the nation’s first fellowships in the field. He developed the fellowships first at UB as a pilot program and then worked to establish them nationally.

With a formal letter signed by its president and three past presidents, the board thanked Blondell for his work, concluding:

“At the end of the day, or the first thing in the morning, we hope you can reflect with satisfaction on a job steadfastly, professionally pursued and accomplished which has forever changed the way physicians will be trained to provide compassionate and evidence-based care for addicted patients as fellow beings, not as pariahs shrouded in stigma and ignorance.”

Blondell has been developing addiction medicine training programs and curricula and in 2013 was appointed director of the National Center for Physician Training in Addiction Medicine, established by the American Board of Addiction Medicine Foundation (ABAMF). The addiction medicine fellowship he developed in the UB Department of Family Medicine was among the nation’s first 10 postgraduate addiction medicine residencies accredited by the ABAMF. There are now 40 such fellowships throughout the U.S. and Canada.