Former CIRM board member writes a personal story on his battle with chronic pain

CIRM Chair Jonathan Thomas presents Philip Pizzo with a resolution honoring his service

On Thursdays many Facebook pages celebrate “throwback Thursday” with old images. Today on our blog we’re doing a throwback to last year, when Philip Pizzo was Dean of Stanford Medical School and served on our governing board. (Lloyd Minor as since replaced him both as Dean and on our board.)

Pizzo recently wrote a personal perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine about his year-long battle with chronic pain. It’s an issue he already knew well: Pizzo had served as chair of an Institute of Medicine panel on pain, which issued a report in 2011. In his perspective, Pizzo wrote:

While working with the IOM committee on pain relief, I learned a great deal about the facts, figures, and impact of chronic pain in the United States. But over the past year, I’ve learned new and very personal lessons about how chronic pain can negatively transform one’s life force.

Previously, I had sometimes wondered whether the chronic pain that patients reported was as incapacitating as they claimed. I now know that it can become debilitating. It can take over one’s life, sap one’s energy, and negate or neutralize joy and well-being.

In Pizzo’s case, doctors did finally find the source of the pain, which they treated with surgery. But had he not been persistent and cared for by an excellent medical team the underlying cause if his pain might not have been found. He writes:

The IOM report laid out recommendations covering pain as a public health challenge, the care of people with pain, and the education and research challenges. The committee affirmed that “addressing the nation’s enormous burden of pain will require a cultural transformation in the way pain is understood, assessed, and treated.” My experience with chronic pain as a physician and as a patient underscores this conclusion and brings greater urgency to the implementation of the IOM committee’s recommendations for relieving pain in America.

In an interview with Ruthann Richter, writing for Stanford’s Scope blog, Pizzo explained his reasons for writing this perspective:

“My hope is that by doing this, it will generalize the discussion and create more dialogue about the realities that 100 million people face, many of whom don’t have the opportunity to have their voices expressed.”

Pizzo may no longer be on our board, but it’s good to know that the same thoughtful approach he brought to all his decisions at CIRM will now be benefiting the millions of people living with chronic pain.

Amy Adams

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