October 19, 2022

Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center receives $10.7M to support next generation of clinical pain researchers

Funding from the National Institutes of Health HEAL Initiative will establish a national education training initiative for early-career clinical pain researchers at U-M.

Drs. Dan Clauw, Steven Harte, and David Williams
Drs. Dan Clauw, Steven Harte, and David Williams will lead the first national career development initiative for clinical pain researchers.

The Department of Anesthesiology’s Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center (CPFRC) has been awarded a five-year $10.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish the first national mentorship and career development program for early career clinicians and scientists interested in pursuing independent careers in clinical pain research.

Funding is provided through the National Institutes of Health Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative, which supports a wide range of programs to develop new or improved prevention and treatment strategies for opioid addiction.

“Pain-related health issues affect an estimated one-third of Americans — and its related health care costs and costs associated with lost productivity are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year,” said Dr. Dan Clauw, professor of anesthesiology and director of the CPFRC.

“This program is an important opportunity to strengthen our country’s ability to train clinicians and scientists with a deep understanding of pain mechanisms, non-opioid treatment options, scientific methodical rigor, patient-centric perspectives, and compassion for those who are suffering.” 

Clauw is a co-director of the new initiative along with CPFRC associate directors, Drs. David Williams, professor of anesthesiology, and Steven Harte, associate professor of anesthesiology. 

The program aims to provide the support necessary — including research experiences and mentorship, protected research time, and funding — for participants to launch independent careers in clinical pain research. The national recruitment process, which will select three candidates per year to participate in the program for up to three years, will focus on attracting a diverse, multidisciplinary field of candidates. 

Participants will work with a team of mentors, including a mentor from their home institution and two mentors from the program’s advisory committee — one scientific mentor and one patient mentor.

“Mentorship is critical as early-stage investigators begin to establish their careers,” said Harte. “The senior faculty selected as scientific mentors for this program, drawn from across the country, have a range of expertise and an established track record of mentoring and training successful investigators. In addition, mentees will partner with one of more than 50 selected U-M faculty who have specific expertise in content areas relevant to pain research.”

The program will include extensive formal learning opportunities with curriculum covering current approaches and methods to pain research and treatment. Participants will have access to courses in pain science, biostatistics, epidemiology, and data science, and will attend the CPFRC Pain Short Course, an annual summer event in Ann Arbor that includes presentations and networking opportunities with national and international pain scientists. 

The CPFRC will work collaboratively with another new national program also supported by the NIH HEAL initiative, the Center for National Pain Scientists Career Development (CCNPS). This national resource will hold an annual conference that the pain scholars will attend as well as develop and support electronic platforms supporting mentoring and education. 

The Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center was founded more than two decades ago with a mission to improve the understanding and management of conditions that have chronic pain and fatigue as core symptoms.

“The CPFRC has a long and successful history of training clinical and translational researchers,” said Williams. “We are excited to lead this new national initiative to not only increase the number of clinical pain researchers, but to provide them with the experiences and tools to make meaningful contributions to the care of patients with pain.”

The Helping to End Addiction Long-termInitiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative, is an aggressive, trans-NIH effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. Launched in April 2018, the initiative is focused on improving prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction, and enhancing pain management. For more information, visit: https://heal.nih.gov.