MY STORY

Let me to tell you a little bit about my background, why I think this program is needed, and why I think I am qualified to teach it.

I have been treating patients in chronic pain since I was a resident in anesthesiology at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, TX, several decades ago. Very soon after I started my anesthesiology residency training, I was assigned a rotation in the weekly Pain Clinic.

I am ashamed to admit, I did not like going to the pain clinic at all and I did my best to get out of going there any time I could. I thought the patients in the pain clinic were whiners, complainers and hypochondriacs that were just trying to get out of work and I had little patience for them. My less than enthusiastic attitude toward the pain clinic changed the day Ms. Newman limped in.

Ms. Newman was a very frail 78-year-old cancer patient whose cancer had spread to her tailbone. She was obviously in severe pain and walked hunched over, moaning with each step. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that her pain was real and that it was excruciating! Dr. Burnell Brown was in charge of the pain clinic and he instructed me to position Ms. Newman face down on the exam room table. He then pointed to an area over her tailbone and told me to press there with my index finger. I did as instructed, and was dismayed when she screamed out with pain. Causing this poor lady to have increased pain was the last thing I wanted to do. I did not want to be in the pain clinic in the first place, but I certainly did not want to be there inflicting pain on this poor helpless lady.

Dr. Brown then instructed me to wipe the painful area with an alcohol swab and then inject the area with a solution of local anesthetic and cortisone that he had prepared. Again, I did as instructed and again she screamed out with pain louder than the first time! And again I was upset with Dr. Brown. Actually, I was furious with his instructing me to increase her pain. But then, an amazing thing happened.

Dr. Brown, with a slight grin on his face, gave me a wink, and suggested I help Ms. Newman sit up. While she had had a very difficult time getting onto the table, she now seemed to be able to sit up with ease. I then helped her off of the table and she slowly straightened up. She then walked around a bit, carefully twisting and turning. She then smiled at me and took my hands and literally danced me around the room, laughing and singing all the way. My life changed at that moment. And, I have been “hooked” on treating pain ever since.

While in the Air Force, I had the good fortune to work with Dr. Janet Travell, who was President Kennedy’s White House Physician, and a pioneer in the treatment of pain. Dr. Travell was an incredible and caring physician who developed the myofascial pain diagrams in the 1940s that we still use until this day. Dr.Travell became my mentor, my teacher and my very good friend. She patiently taught me the injection techniques that she used on President Kennedy and others. It was my honor to know her and I’m very indebted to her for all that she taught me.

Over the years I have treated literally thousands of patients in pain and have lectured on the appropriate use of opioids to pain management physicians across the country in 35 different states. Now, I want to share the knowledge that I have gained to help patients get the best possible relief with their pain medications with the least possible risk.