By Wendy Sarubbi | January 13, 2020 1:01 pm

UCF College of Medicine’s opioid education curriculum is being enhanced thanks to a funding boost from the Florida Department of Children and Families. The college recently received $250,000 from the DCF’s State Opioid Response Grant which is given to medical schools to strengthen opioid education in a bid to stem the epidemic in Florida.

In response to Florida’s opioid problem, the College of Medicine created an innovative and diverse opioid curriculum that spans all four years of medical school. The grant will fund a project to review and further enhance the curriculum.

Associate professor of medicine at UCF, Dr. Magdalena Pasarica is the principal investigator on the project and will be working with faculty members Dr. Denise Kay, assistant professor and Dr. Martin Klapheke, psychiatry professor to expand the medical education curricula. The improved curricula will include coverage of pain assessment and management to ensure integration of substance use disorders with a focus on opioid use disorders and misuse.

Dr. Pasarica said all four years of the curriculum will be reviewed. “We plan to use a systematic approach, which begins with a needs assessment and mapping of current curriculum according to the opioid epidemic educational competencies as recommended by the Association of American Medical Colleges.”

The grant will also be used to employ the services of an instructional designer who will help plan additional instructional technology educational materials for use in the program. New self-learning modules and simulation encounters for medical students will also be developed to fill gaps identified in the curriculum.

UCF is one of 60 medical schools in the nation – and the only one in Florida – that made a pledge in 2015 to teach medical students, in all years, about the dangers of prescribing opioids in an effort to curb the growing epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin abuse.

UCF’s opioid education curriculum has been recognized nationally for its approach and last fall was one of four medical schools in the nation invited to a listening session with White House representatives to share how its curriculum is addressing the opioid epidemic.

The four-year curriculum covers screening, diagnosis, treatment, and referral needs for patients with substance use disorders. In the first and second years, students are taught about pain management and the risks of prescribing opioids. They also gain experience evaluating patient-actors with substance use disorders, using screening tools and interview questions. They also learn to treat computerized mannequins who present with symptoms of an overdose.  In the third and fourth years, students get direct clinical experience working with patients in hospitals and clinics with substance use disorders, including diagnosis, treatment and referral.

“The benefits of this grant are far-reaching,” Dr. Pasarica said. “Our students will have access to an enhanced and updated curriculum for opioid use disorder and opioid misuse. And in the long term we will have more physicians armed with knowledge on opioids misuse prevention and how to treat overdoses­– and that’s one of the best ways to tackle the epidemic.”

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