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UF researchers receive funding to address pain in older adults

Focus groups and workshops will help researchers learn about integrative pain management options.

University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville researchers were awarded a Florida Blue Foundation 2019 Quality of Patient Care Grant for $275,000 to implement a three-year project addressing pain management in older adults in Northeast Florida. The project is named the Aging and Integrative Pain Assessment and Management Initiative, or AI-PAMI. The work is an expansion on the existing Pain Assessment and Management Initiative, established in 2014 by Phyllis Hendry, MD, a professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics.

The comprehensive AI-PAMI program will include focus groups to gather insights from the target audience to inform the content and format of provider courses and a workshop series for patients ages 50 and older on integrative treatment options for pain. Planned topics include aromatherapy, yoga, mindfulness, virtual reality and more.

“The Florida Blue Foundation’s focus is to advance the health of our community through long-term grants to organizations that are addressing critical community needs,” said Susan Towler, Florida Blue Foundation vice president. “We can best accomplish this through community partnerships. Together with UF Health, we can address the issue of pain management for older adults through non-opioid treatment options by helping them learn alternative ways to alleviate pain.”

Sophia Sheikh, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine, toxicologist and medical director of the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville, is the project’s principal investigator. Hendry and Haytham Helmi, MD, assistant director of emergency medicine research, serve as the project’s co-investigators.

“Our aim is to have a role in improving the quality of life for older adults living with pain by educating caregivers, patients and providers about evidence-based non-opioid options,” Sheikh said. “We are appreciative of the support provided by the Florida Blue Foundation and look forward to working with our partners within the University of Florida and the community as we begin this important work.”

Virtual focus groups will be conducted to help inform educational workshops and courses. The “Aging with Pain” workshop series will be tailored for older adults living with pain and their caregivers, while health care provider courses will focus on the clinical aspects of incorporating integrative pain management into practice. Workshop topics will be presented by leading medical and industry experts and will focus on education and hands-on application of the techniques. Enrollment for the virtual focus groups will begin soon.

It is one of the numerous projects the department of emergency medicine’s division of emergency medicine research is conducting related to pain management and treatment in the wake of the opioid epidemic.

“Older adults are an especially vulnerable population in terms of the risks associated with traditional pain management, such as opioid prescriptions,” Hendry said. “Our team considers this project to be a critical continuation of our work to address the shortage of pain management options available to patients.”

Interested health care providers and patients can learn more about the focus groups and educational events by contacting the research team at emresearch@jax.ufl.edu or 904.244.4986. More information will be available on the PAMI website as dates and locations are announced for virtual and in-person events.

Researchers are looking forward to working with various AI-PAMI partners, including Brooks Rehabilitation, the UF Center for Simulation Education and Safety Research, the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, the Jacksonville Aging Studies Center and others.

Featured Faculty

Haytham Helmi, MD, MPH

Haytham Helmi, MD, MPH


Assistant Director, Clinical Research

Phyllis L. Hendry, MD, FAAP, FACEP

Phyllis L. Hendry, MD, FAAP, FACEP

Professor - University of Florida Research Foundation Professor
Associate Chair of Research