The Connector – Guest Spotlight: Vanila Singh

by | Jan 22, 2020 | Connecting the Dots | 0 comments

Dr. Vanila Singh is one of AACIPM’s Advisory Committee members and a tireless advocate for patient-centered pain management.  She has an important vantage point from her recent position as Chief Medical Officer at HHS and leading to completion the Best Practices Pain Management Task Force Report.

See what Dr. Singh has to say about AACIPM, the Task Force Report, Nora Volkow’s recent comments about the timeline for new pain medicines, innovation in pain management and more:

What are you most excited about in your work with AACIPM?

I am excited about the innovation to help address painful conditions. I believe we are at a potentially transformative time if all stakeholders can come together and put patients and their needs at the center. AACIPM is uniquely positioned in some ways to bring folks together to see these common goals.

What opportunities do you see to implement some of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Task Force report?

I see various opportunities in many different environments within the federal government at the Department of Health and Human Services, where I served for the past couple of years as Chief Medical Officer.  I see opportunities at the Department of Defense and within the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue to ensure our veterans and active duty members receive the phenomenal care they deserve, which was highlighted in the Task Force Report.

Our state medical boards can also provide guidance on both physician education and best practice guidelines.  I believe it is important for academic centers and community hospitals in their training of medical students and residency, nursing, pharmacy students, and all disciplines in general, as well as for professional health care organizations, and especially patient advocacy groups who are an untapped resource to share the importance of comprehensive integrative pain management in treating the whole patient for the best outcomes.

I also see the biotech, medical device and biopharma sectors as possible allies in this fight since there are so many different medical conditions and situations that contribute to the large number of health conditions, and rare diseases that need  to be considered when determining pain and treatment therapies.

In thinking about the recent comments from Nora Volkow, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, about how long it will take before new pain medicines come to market, what do you think about the innovations that are non-pharmacologic?

I believe there are so many stakeholders who can move the dial and get us the innovations that we need to begin to address the numerous mechanisms that underlie painful conditions.  Dr. Volkow is presenting a realistic scenario, and I believe that with the right folks in policy, academia, and business, we can in fact expedite the innovative path.

You are in a unique position and have spoken to a long list of diverse stakeholders in the past few years who are interested and committed to improving pain management.  Have you noticed any common themes or interesting highlights from your interactions?   

I have noticed that no matter the organization – all are moved by the emphasis on individualized patient-centered care and are especially moved by patient testimonials.  There is no doubt that people want to do the right thing, but reminders of the great outcomes and the role that various stakeholders can play is so beneficial and motivating.

What advice would you give to a clinician who is interested in promoting multimodal, interdisciplinary, integrative and person-centered pain management today, but is in a clinic setting without infrastructure to support the integration of this approach to care?  

I would encourage clinicians to use the Task Force report and go to their hospital administration, or community groups that want to help. Together they can be a part of the greater solution, by working towards better patient outcomes.  It is not only helpful to a specific person who is suffering, but it also economically makes good sense.

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