Western Pain 
Medicine Program - Undergraduate Medical Education

Unrelieved acute and chronic pain remains a major healthcare problem in Canada and has a huge impact on quality of life and ability of individuals to function. In fact, pain is the most common reason for patients to seek medical attention and is the presenting complaint in over 50% of visits to the emergency department. It is therefore crucial that medical students receive adequate training in pain assessment and management to ensure competence in clinical practice. It is much more difficult to change attitudes and beliefs towards pain management following graduation.

Unfortunately, training in pain management remains inadequate in many medical schools across Canada. A recent survey carried out in 2009 showed that only one-third of Canadian health science programs had designated mandatory formal pain content in their curricula whereas veterinary students received about five times more hours devoted to pain education than medical students! (Watt-Watson et al., Pain Research and Management 2009)

The good news is that undergraduate medical education in pain management is rapidly improving in many health science programs across Canada and this is especially true at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University. At the time of the survey carried out in 2009, Schulich Medicine was at, or near the top of hours devoted to pain content in the medical curriculum and we have a 4th year course entirely devoted to pain medicine education. The pain medicine course for 2013 is based on case presentations and provides 24 hours of instruction on pharmacology of analgesics, management of acute pain and cancer pain and assessment and management of chronic neck and back pain. There are also special topics on pain in the emergency room, in family practice, in the elderly and in the addicted patient. The pain medicine course is also multi-disciplinary and includes teaching by neurologists, anesthesiologists, family doctors, physiatrists and a psychologist and a pharmacist. The course schedule for 2013 is attached.

Medical students may do rotations though the Pain Clinic at St Joseph's Health Care or London Regional Cancer Program as space permits. Students wishing to arrange an elective are advised to contact Dr. Katherine Ower or Dr. Dwight Moulin at London Health Sciences Centre.

It is our hope that a rigorous curriculum in pain education at the undergraduate level will turn out doctors who are well-versed in pain management and who can relieve the burden of pain in our society.

Dwight Moulin MD
Earl Russell Chair, Pain Medicine, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Western University

Jim Watson
  • Jim Watson MD