New UM Pain Center Offers Unique Team Approach

When David A. Lubarsky, M.D., M.B.A., the Emanuel M. Papper Professor and Chair of Anesthesiology, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Management, joined the Miller School more than a decade ago, he was intent on establishing a departmental pain clinic and, over the years, oversaw at least eight different plans.

None, however, came to fruition — which in retrospect is a good thing because none could come close to matching the scope, breadth or patient-centric vision behind the Multidisciplinary Pain Center, which officially opened in the Medical Wellness Center last week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. For Lubarsky, who understands pain from both a personal and professional perspective, the center, a key element of the UHealth Institute for Advanced Pain Management, was worth the long wait.

“The fact that it is actually built is a near miracle,’’ said Lubarksy, who is also chief executive officer of the UHealth Physician Practice and associate vice president for UHealth Practice Administration, during the November 8 ceremony in the Wellness Center lobby. “But more important is that we have moved beyond the idea of having a pain clinic for the Department of Anesthesiology, because it is not. It is first and foremost a pain clinic for our patients.’’

A collaborative effort between the departments of Anesthesiology, Physical Therapy, Psychiatry, Integrative Medicine, Rehabilitation Medicine, and Neurology, the center offers an individualized, holistic and comprehensive range of services to cure, or ameliorate, the disabling effects of chronic pain, which torments as many as one out of every four people.

Encompassing 4,500 square feet of space, the center includes two interventional procedure suites, clinical space where physicians see patients and special facilities for physical therapy and rehabilitation overlooking the Wellness Center’s gym.

But as state-of-the-art as the center is, Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., said what sets it apart is what sets the Miller School apart from every other health care concern in the region: the multidisciplinary character of the practice.

“We have world renowned experts in all the disciplines that are required to resolve a patient’s complex problems,’’ the Dean said. “Quite often the distance between a patient and happiness is getting rid of pain, and I think it’s really wonderful we’ve taken this step as an institution to create the best environment possible to fight or eliminate pain.’’

Noting that Lubarsky and his collaborators accomplished a dream that began with Emanuel M. Papper, M.D., Ph.D., who served as the Miller School’s vice president for medical affairs and dean from 1969 to1981, Dean Goldschmidt acknowledged Dr. Papper’s widow, Pat, and expressed his gratitude to all the UHealth chairs and leaders who helped make it happen.

Among them were Sherrill Hayes, Ph.D., PT, professor and chair of physical therapy; Charles Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., the Leonard M. Miller Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Constantine Sarantopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and chief of the Pain Management Division; Ashwin Mehta, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of clinical medicine and medical director of Integrative Medicine; Keith Candiotti, M.D., executive vice chair and chief operating officer of Anesthesiology, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Management; Diana D. Cardenas, M.D., M.H.A., professor and chair of rehabilitation medicine; and Ralph Sacco, M.D., the Olemberg Professor and Chair of Neurology.

Though Lubarsky has nurtured his dream for years, it evolved in part out of despair. A triathlete sidelined by and depressed over chronic pain, Lubarsky told the gathering he recovered because he was able to pull together a team of specialists in rehabilitation medicine, physical therapy, integrative medicine and psychiatry to address his needs. That’s when the vision for the new center clicked.

“I realized you shouldn’t have to be a chairman at an academic medical center to be able to get the advice of multiple people who can view the world’s problems – your problems – in an entirely different manner,’’ he said. “The combination of all those people got me back on the pathway of being a semi-competitive athlete again. Without them, I would not be a happy person, and being able to deliver that same level of care to every patient who needs it has driven me to get us to this place.’’

For more information about the center, please call 305-243-8500 or 1-888- UM-NOPAIN.

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