August 22, 2019 | 89° F

Rutgers combats opioid epidemic with new fellowship program

Photo by Flickr |

Some patients recovering from opioid addiction have shown positive results to drugs like Buprenorphine, alongside therapy and counseling. Accepted fellows will learn best practices to treat these patients, and will take a step toward being able to prescribe Buprenorphine.

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (RNJMS) has launched a new Addiction Medicine Fellowship in an effort to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic. 

The fellowship is appointed by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Upon completing the program, graduates will be eligible to sit for the boards in Addiction Medicine exam. Board-certified physicians are automatically granted the waiver to prescribe Buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder, according to a press release.

Buprenorphine is one of three commonly used medications to treat opioid addiction, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Drugs, such as Buprenorphine, alongside Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, have been found to be more effective in treating addiction and helping people sustain recovery, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

“The need for addiction expertise is dire. Addiction to prescription opioids, heroin, and now fentanyl and its related substances, is a major cause of suffering and death in our communities,” said Dr. Petros Levounis, professor and chair in the Department of Psychiatry.

Applications for physicians interested in the one-year program will be accepted through Jan. 1, 2019, and the program, which offers three positions, will begin in July 2019, according to the press release.

Physicians accepted into the fellowship will train in the evaluation and treatments of patients with substance use disorders, behavioral addictions and co-occurring psychiatric disorders, according to the press release. 

Fellows will also study motivational interviewing, behavior modification techniques, 12-step facilitation and psychopharmacology specifically designed for this patient population while alternating between clinical locations at University Hospital in Newark, the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care site, according to the press release.

“With this new fellowship, we’re actively seeking doctors who are passionate about learning addiction medicine, envision a medical career dedicated to one of the most disenfranchised and underserved patient populations and are committed to putting an end to the opioid epidemic,” Levounis said.

Taking a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, the fellowship program, which was created by faculty physicians in the Department of Psychiatry, includes supervising attendees representing the departments of emergency medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and anesthesiology, according to the press release.

“While all physicians can — and should — diagnose and treat addiction, only a handful of doctors have the skills to provide the much needed guidance and leadership in this area,” said Dr. Erin Zerbo, professor and fellowship program director in the Department of Psychiatry. “Graduates of our fellowship will become specialists in addiction prevention, treatment, and integration of services with other medical and mental health care.”

Ryan Stiesi

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Targum.