University of Arizona announces new addiction fellowship program

The recent opioid epidemic has impacted every corner of the United States. In Arizona, Governor Ducey and local leaders have taken steps to combat the issue including holding bad actors accountable, expanding access to treatment and creating the country’s first 24/7 opioid helpline for Arizona residents and health care providers.

Now, the University of Arizona College of Medicine has created an Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program and restructured its medical school curriculum to highlight the growing number of opioid-related deaths each year.

“This is a wonderful thing for everyone,” Alan Leibowitz, MD, associate dean for Graduate Medical Education said. “These are prime examples of how the College of Medicine – Phoenix is responding to the opioid epidemic in its training. We are creating an environment for residents, students and clinical faculty to be educated on addiction, which will inevitably help care for the thousands of patients suffering from opioid abuse.”

The university has partnered with Banner University Medical Center Phoenix and the Phoenix VA Health Care System. The goal of the fellowship is to train physicians to provide more tailored care to the needs of those who are addicted to these drugs. Another goal is to increase awareness around the growing epidemic and continue to build out curriculum to better educate future doctors and nurses.

Currently, medical students and residents across the United States do not usually receive the kind of evidence-based education about how to treat addiction or pain related to chronic disease.

The Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program, which is sponsored by AHCCCS, is a one-year-long  fellowship that includes clinical rotations at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix and the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

Fellows in the program will work out of Banner, splitting time between the Addiction Recovery Center, Addiction Consult Service and Toxicology Service. Time will also be spent working out of the Banner Behavioral Health Hospital in Scottsdale so they get hands-on work in detoxification services. For outpatient work, fellows will engage in substance use therapy, where they will spend time learning therapy modalities of motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy and other substance abuse-related therapy methods.

“We recognize that substance use disorders affect millions of Americans and is a condition that is seen through various setting of health care,” Anita Karnik, MD, director of the fellowship program, said. “We hope to train physicians to be change agents, teachers and provide excellent care. We hope to increase awareness of substance use disorders and decrease any stigmatization associated with addiction treatment.”

Dr. Karnik, an addiction psychiatrist at the Phoenix VA, created the program with Luke Peterson, DO, an addiction medicine specialist at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.

A big push behind this program is the need for therapy among veterans who have developed addictions to opioids since returning home from deployment. Residents will work at the Phoenix VA to gain in-depth knowledge related to pain and addiction and opioid treatment. The fellowship also includes curriculum around residential rehabilitation, mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Currently, applications are open for two positions that will begin working in July of next year. Physical applicants are encouraged to apply including those from specialities such as family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, preventative medicine, and pediatrics.

Nick Esquer

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