COM students participate in “Get Waivered!” day to speed their ability to prescribe medications for opioid use disorder

image of buprenorphine

On Saturday, April 18, 174 third- and fourth-year UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine students participated in a national “Got Time? Get Waivered!” day, a campaign to promote health professions students’ enrollment in a first-of-its-kind training launched last week by the National Provider Clinical Support System (PCSS). The event was organized by the Student Osteopathic Medical Association’s Overdose Prevention Task Force in conjunction with the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine.

The training instructs health care providers in how to prescribe Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), a method which uses FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to help patients living with opioid use disorders. The PCSS recently allowed medical students and other medical trainees to complete this training prior to graduation to close the “treatment gap” that exists between the number of people with opioid use disorder and providers licensed to provide MAT. Successful completion of the training enables medical students to eventually apply for a waiver to prescribe medication (buprenorphine) for the treatment of opioid use disorders. Students can take the course during their educational program and apply for their waiver when they obtain their full Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) license. 

Divya Padmanabhan, a member of COM’s Class of ’21, who participated in the April 18 training, noted that it is now more important than ever to those living with opioid use disorder to have as much access to treatment as possible. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made racial and social inequities in health incredibly apparent [and] … it has disrupted access to services and treatment for those struggling with opioid use disorder,” she stated. “I am thankful to have had the opportunity to complete the MAT waiver training … so I can better serve my future patients.”  

Sean Sedore, a fourth-year COM student who also took the waiver training, is soon to start his psychiatry residency, with intentions of becoming a psychiatrist. He felt the course would better prepare him for working with future patients, particularly those on addiction medicine rotations. He also said that getting the training out of the way before his residency will allow him more time to learn the finer details of his chosen specialty. “The ability to get this certificate ahead of time … allows me to focus my busy residency time on learning other things since I have already completed the training now during my fourth year of medical school,” he shared.

The “Got Time? Get Waivered!” initiative engaged a total of 694 osteopathic medical students nationwide, 119 of whom were from UNE COM.

Also available to medical students is an online course offered by the PCSS, the first one in the nation specifically designed for medical students. According to Jenifer Van Deusen, M.Ed., clinical instructor at UNE COM and executive director of the Coalition on Physician Education in Substance Use Disorders (COPE) who worked as a collaborator on the development of the course, the opportunity for medical students to complete this training by day one of their residencies is of tremendous benefit during a time when the number of opioid use disorders have skyrocketed across the country. “The medications stabilize brain chemistry that is impacted by opioid use, blocks the euphoric effects of opioids, relieves the cravings that drives people to continuously seek more opioids, and normalizes body functions,” she said. “In combination with behavioral therapy, people regain stability in their lives and recover from this chronic disease.”

Van Deusen serves as the principal investigator on a $450,000 three-year SAMHSA grant, Maine PCSS-University, received by UNE COM last fall to provide waiver instruction to medical students prior to graduation as part of overall training in MAT, a method that is considered the gold standard in treating opioid use disorders. The grant also supports the UNE Physician Assistant (PA) program (which has required waiver training for its graduates for the past two years) and will result in enhancing addiction medicine education in both the UNE COM and PA programs.  

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