Published July 22, 2019
The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and UB’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions (CRIA) played host to a prestigious Fulbright Enrichment Seminar on the opioid epidemic that brought 79 Fulbright Foreign Students from 51 countries to downtown Buffalo.
The application team worked through the Institute of International Education (IIE) to bring the students and three IIE staff members to the home of the Jacobs School for a multi-day event titled “Combating Addiction and Addressing the Opioid Crisis.”
“Buffalo is the perfect location to impart knowledge about successful strategies for combating the opioid crisis,” says Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for health policy and clinical professor of medicine, who serves on the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force.
“In the last two years, Buffalo has shown leadership and innovation in facing this problem, defying national trends and reversing a rise in opioid-related deaths,” adds Nielsen, the CRIA’s clinical chair. Nielsen also spoke on medical perspectives on the crisis.
The seminar featured a diverse mix of lectures and panels from prominent scholars, experts, people affected by addiction and local officials. There were breakout discussions to explore various aspects of the opioid crisis and research methodologies to deal with it, as well as expert-led workshops to develop strategies to respond to the crisis, along with visits to local opioid treatment sites. Faculty members from the Jacobs School — along with local health care and addiction experts — took part.
“The objective was to provide these young international scholars with a broad introduction to the opioid epidemic — including its history, development, current challenges and future directions — so they can return to their home countries with the knowledge and understanding to face this global health challenge,” says David Herzberg, PhD, associate professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Herzberg spearheaded the Fulbright application in his role as education chair of the CRIA, which employs a multidisciplinary approach — integrating research, clinical care and education — to address substance use disorders.
“The program addressed the opioid crisis from multiple perspectives and through multiple dimensions,” Herzberg says. “We discussed the public health aspects of the epidemic, and also looked at the history of addiction, its impact on health care, and its socioeconomic, geographic and cultural dimensions.”
Leonard gave a presentation titled “Nature and Extent of the Opioid Crisis,” which provided an overview of the present day opioid crisis both nationally and locally that addressed the extent of opioid use and its harmful effects. It also delved into the complex dynamics that link the expansion of pharmaceutical opioid use in medicine and the public health crisis of addiction and overdose that followed.
Erie County Commissioner of Health Gale R. Burstein, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics, gave the keynote address. Burstein, an expert on public health and a leading figure in responding to the region’s opioid crisis, recounted how she and her office came to recognize that a major public health catastrophe had struck the area; the different voices and demands that she had to navigate in learning about and developing responses to the crisis; and the challenges, triumphs and sorrows of her years of grappling with the crisis.
Other Jacobs School faculty who presented were:
The 2019 Fulbright Enrichment Seminar took place April 24-28 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building.