An Interview with Kevin L. Zacharoff, MD
What was your overall impression of the PAINWeek 2014 conference?
Kevin L. Zacharoff, MD: 2014 has been a very interesting year with respect to pain management and national pain conferences. The “opioid pendulum” has clearly swung in the direction of moving away from chronic opioid therapy being the default treatment of non-cancer chronic pain, and there seems to be a bit of a lull at conferences as of late. This was not the case at PAINWeek 2014. This meeting was as lively as ever, with more attendees looking for education, and eager to learn. While I am concerned about the “buffet of education” becoming too large, it seems that the variety of tracks available provided something for everyone, and the decisions about what to attend continued to be challenging, but satisfying to the attendees I came into contact with. So far, I would have to say that the formula is working, and with another 200+ attendees more than last year, this meeting has established itself as the key pain meeting in the country.
EM: What were some of the program highlights this year?
KZ: For me personally, being awarded the American Society of Pain Educators Clinical Pain Educator of the Year was a tremendous honor. Additionally, the conference now offers 23 distinct tracks, ranging from behavioral pain management, communications, medical/legal, and special interest sessions including stress, health coaching, and Veterans Health Administration. The Faculty was top-notch, and committed. Covering pertinent topics such as pain in women, including chronic pelvic pain, provided for a very engaging and important agenda. Lastly, the inclusion of a Medical Marijuana track was timely, as it seems like cannabinoids are on the chronic pain treatment horizon.
EM: Who attended PAINWeek 2014?
KZ: Another important aspect of PAINWeek is the composition of the attendees. There were nurses, physicians, physician assistants, pharmacologists, psychologists, lawyers, policymakers, and just about every other discipline remotely related to caring for people who suffer from acute and chronic pain. The broad spectrum of the attendees and the fact that the content is directed to all of them as a single group of stakeholders, in my mind is the single greatest asset of the conference.
EM: Was there any particularly noteworthy part of the meeting?
KZ: I think there were two particularly noteworthy parts of the meeting in addition to what I’ve already mentioned. One would be the keynote address “The Sound and the Fury” by Ethan Nadelmann. He posited that the way to end the War on Drugs was to legalize pretty much everything, from marijuana down the line, taking a page from the playbook that was employed when prohibition of alcohol ended. While I personally did not agree with some of his logic, I think that we need to have people who make arguments on both ends of the spectrum in order to come to some middle ground. Dr. Nadelmann definitely promotes one end of the spectrum with regard to illicit substance use, imprisonment for it, and the impact on society.
The other noteworthy part was a session entitled, The Scorpion and the Frog, or Quid Pro Quo? A New Collaborative Approach by Charles F. Cichon, Marc Gonzalez, and one of my favorite speakers, Stephen J. Ziegler. This session explored things that have worked and what has not from a regulatory perspective. The speakers proposed that collaboration between prescribers and regulators could lead to improved patient care and harm reduction. This session was engaging, and in my opinion, extremely relevant to clinical practice today.
EM: What do you anticipate for PAINWeek 2015?
KZ: I anticipate that PAINWeek will continue to be the “go to” meeting for clinicians who are searching for relevant, engaging, and up-to-date information that can impact their practice on the front line of healthcare. As far as I’m concerned, there is no sign of this meeting losing its importance in providing what I believe is desperately needed in healthcare today, pain education.