More than 300 students and faculty recently took part in Oakland University’s fourth annual Interprofessional Workshop on Opioid Abuse. 

The event featured keynote speakers, an interprofessional healthcare panel, a case study discussion and a naloxone training – all intended to educate and empower future health professionals in the battle against opioid abuse.

Workshop participants included students and faculty from the School of Health Sciences, School of Nursing, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, and for the first time, the College of Arts and Sciences.  

“We’ve always had participants from medicine, nursing, physical therapy and public health attend this event, and this year we expanded our reach to include participants from the social work program in the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Deborah Doherty, PT, Ph.D., an associate professor with the Physical Therapy Program at Oakland.
“We know that professionals in all of these fields interact with patients and families affected by opioid abuse. The more inclusive our educational outreach is, the more we can promote a truly interprofessional approach that addresses a wide range of care needs for patients and families.”

Keynote speakers

Keynote speakers John and Tanisha Moir emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion in creating an environment in which each patient is treated with dignity and respect. The husband and wife are both licensed master social workers and certified additions counselors. Tanisha also serves as a special lecturer and field liaison in Oakland’s social work program. 

“The way we talk to and about patients speaks volumes about how we will treat them,” said Tanisha. “Instead of making assumptions based on stereotypes, we need to understand who people are and how to address them. Coming from a place of compassion and humanness is critical no matter what discipline you represent.”

The pair also shared their own experiences in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse. John recalled how his privileged background initially prevented health professionals from acknowledging his struggles with alcohol abuse.

“I didn’t present as what an alcoholic looked like,” he said. “I was employed in the mental health field, dressed appropriately, married, from the suburbs. For a long time, my privilege prevented health care providers from addressing my disorder.”

Tanisha, who is in long-term recovery from opioid use disorder, cited her experience with a dentist as an example of the holistic approach health professionals should take when caring for those in recovery.

“This dentist saw all of me,” she said. “He partnered with me to develop a treatment plan that did not involve the use of opioids. He asked about my recovery program and made sure I had someone to accompany me to appointments.”

John added, “People with substance use disorders show up everywhere. There is no setting where you are not going to need to be informed. There’s 22 million people in the U.S. who are in recovery, and we need to know that when we’re interacting with the medical community that they will work with us to maintain that.”

Case study and panel discussion

Following the keynote, students were presented with a case study involving a typical patient in a clinical setting and were tasked with coming up with an intervention plan. Each group was led by a faculty facilitator who asked questions and guided discussion.

Later, the case study was also discussed by a panel of health professionals who highlighted multi-disciplinary intervention options to limit the use of prescription opioids. The panel was moderated by Stephen Loftus, Ph.D., OUWB associate professor of medical education, and included four health professionals:

• Annas Aljassem, MD, MHSA (Hospice and Palliative Care, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialties)
• Levi Hall, PharmD, Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist
• Tanisha Moir, LMSW, Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor
• Mary Neff, MSN, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist


Naloxone training


This year’s interprofessional workshop also featured a naloxone training led by Tracy Chirikas, Community Relations Manager from the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities. The Auburn Hills-based organization’s mission is to build healthy communities through substance abuse prevention, wellness, and recovery support.
Chirikas acknowledged the severity of the opioid epidemic, noting that each day approximately 130 people in the U.S. die from opioid overdoses, a five-fold increase since 1999. In Michigan, Opioid overdoses accounted for 2,036 deaths in 2018, an 18-fold increase over the same time period. Oakland County has not been immune to the opioid problem either. The Oakland County Health Division reported 200 opioid-related deaths in 2018.

Despite the bleak statistics, individuals and organizations are working together to save lives. According to Chirikas, the ACHC has provided naloxone training to more than 3,500 individuals in Oakland County. Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, is a medication used to reverse opioid overdoses. Interprofessional workshop participants who attended the training were taught how to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and to safely administer an intranasal naloxone dose. At the end of the session, they each received a Save a Life kit with all items needed to administer the drug to someone in need.

“Every single one of you is extremely valuable in saving lives,” Chirikas said.

This year’s workshop was organized by the Oakland University Interprofessional Education Task Force, which is composed of faculty from the School of Health Sciences (Masters of Public Health and Doctor of Physical Therapy programs), School of Nursing, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and College of Arts and Sciences (Social Work Program).

Funding and support for the workshop was provided by the OU School of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, and College of Arts and Sciences.