NEWS | March 5, 2015

National pain experts discuss care at UC Davis nursing school annual dean's lecture


Pain management experts from UC Davis and the nation convened Wednesday to discuss quality pain care for older adults at the 2015 Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis Lecture Series: Leading Change, Advancing Health.

(L-R) Timothy Cutler, David Copenhaver, Judy Watt-Watson, Scott Fishman and Keela Herr discuss pain at nursing school annual dean's lecture. (L-R) Timothy Cutler, David Copenhaver, Judy Watt-Watson, Scott Fishman and Keela Herr discuss pain at nursing school annual dean's lecture.

Keela Herr, a nationally recognized expert in elder pain management and health policy, addressed a packed house of current graduate students, faculty and alumni of the school, as well as nurses, physicians, researchers and students of UC Davis Health System and individuals throughout Sacramento. Herr identified the challenges and barriers to quality pain care and highlighted directions for addressing and promoting improved pain care.

“In assessing pain in older people with persistent pain, we must create a larger picture of the pain experience,” explained Herr, associate dean for faculty and professor at the College of Nursing, University of Iowa, and co-director of the John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. “We’re not there with a magic wand yet, but the science is moving quickly in this area. Who knows what the future will hold?”

Herr said the 65-and-over population will nearly double by 2030. Already, older adults make up the largest proportion of patients seeking care in acute-care settings and the primary population of long-term care settings. As part of the lecture, “Quality Pain Care for All Older Adults: Progress and Future Directions,” School of Nursing Founding Dean Heather M. Young moderated the panel, who also engaged in conversation with the audience.

“This series is designed to feature topics in line with the school’s vision to transform health care through nursing leadership, education and research,” added Young. “With a condition that affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, we know we all have a lot to learn to advance our mission.”

Young collaborated with Scott Fishman, professor and chief of the UC Davis Center for Pain Medicine, to develop pain-education competencies across all health-care professional schools. That initiative has received international recognition and the center was recently selected by the American Pain Society as a 2015 Clinical Center of Excellence, recognizing pain-care teams that provide outstanding, exemplary care for those with chronic pain disorders, acute pain after surgery or trauma, as well as in palliative care settings for pain from cancer and other terminal conditions.

“We took a bold step to commit and try to determine pain competencies for all health professionals,” said Fishman, who was member of the panel. “With a diverse group of experts we created a list of expected skill sets that any graduate from a health professional school should have. And these expectations apply to health-care professionals across the spectrum.”

Judy Watt-Watson, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, echoed Fishman’s sentiment that educating future providers before they leave school offers the best hope for progress in pain assessment and treatment.

“In clinical practice we work together, but we don’t learn together. If we don’t know what each member of the team can contribute, we are less effective,” said Watt-Watson. “We must focus on interprofessional education, because if we do what we’ve always done, nothing will change.”

Panelists David Copenhaver, pain-medicine specialist and faculty member of the Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine Department at the UC Davis School of Medicine, and Timothy Cutler, professor of clinical pharmacy at UCSF, also shared their perspectives with and answered questions from audience members.

The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis Lecture Series brings nationally recognized leaders to the UC Davis Sacramento campus to illuminate academic, research and clinical topics that advance health, ignite leadership and promote bold system change. This year’s series is sponsored by The Mayday Fund, a charitable organization dedicated to alleviating the incidence, degree and consequence of human physical pain, as well as the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Master of Science Class of 2014.

About the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis

The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis transforms health care through nursing education and research. Established in 2009 through a $100 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the school offers four graduate areas of study, including doctoral and master’s-degree programs in nursing science and health-care leadership and master’s-degree programs for nurse practitioners and physician assistants, with a focus on preparing primary-care providers for rural and underserved communities. The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is part of UC Davis Health System, an integrated, academic health system encompassing the UC Davis School of Medicine, UC Davis Medical Center and the UC Davis Medical Group. For more information, visit