Salimah Meghani, PhD MBE RN FAAN
Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences
Center for Bioethics
University of Pennsylvania
How has membership in APS been of value to you and your professional development?
I joined APS as a doctoral student and have continued my membership since. I found APS relevant both as a student and as an early-mid career researcher. While advantages range from cutting-edge, data-driven learning to dissemination opportunities, the most salient advantage for me is to network with like- and unlike-minded interdisciplinary scholars; the former help me maintain momentum and the latter challenge me—both towards the advancement of rigorous scholarship. To this end, I have found engagement in the Pain Disparities Shared Interest Group (SIG) particularly valuable. My experiences as chair of this SIG have been enriching, particularly as we seek to re-invigorate the SIG and expand its scope beyond racial and ethnic disparities to encompass other relevant domains such as addiction and physical and cognitive disabilities. This process has challenged me to think broadly about pain disparities, which has enhanced my own scholarship and continued professional development. I have also developed a network of friends and mentors whom I look forward to seeing each year.
What is your area of specialty?
I am an academic researcher with formal training in nursing, bioethics, and health disparities. My research focuses on understanding and addressing sources of disparities in pain care and outcomes.
What has been a highlight of your work? Perhaps you and your staff are proud of a certain project or accomplishment.
Our team recently spearheaded two major projects to inform the debate on pain treatment disparities. The first project, "Advancing a National Agenda to Eliminate Disparities in Pain Care: Directions for Health Policy, Education, Practice, and Research," was a culmination of a series of efforts to convert rigorous evidence on pain care disparities to education, research, and policy targets. This special report (featured in Pain Medicine) addresses many of the issues and challenges raised in the IOM report, Relieving Pain in America. In addition, our team is the first to report a meta-analysis of 20 years of cumulative evidence on racial and ethnic disparities in analgesic treatment for pain in the U.S. This work, "Time to Take Stock: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review of Analgesic Treatment Disparities for Pain in the United States," uncovered concerning disparities in pain care and also provided a window into the sources of these disparities.
While we have established that pain care disparities exist and its magnitude is concerning, we have not yet been able to identify workable interventions to these disparities. The field definitely needs to move in this direction.
What initially sparked your interest in working in your field? Briefly describe your career path.
My initial interest in this topic stemmed from exposure to the widespread suffering experienced by cancer patients in Pakistan, my country of origin, due to constrained availability of opioids for cancer pain relief. The works of Pain and Policy Studies Group on documenting these global and regional disparities were instructive. These early experiences engendered my dedication to a line of scientific inquiry focused on the causes and consequences of disparities in pain care. As a doctoral student in the U.S., I started investigating clinical disparities in cancer pain outcomes and how preference and negotiation for analgesic treatment for cancer pain is shaped. This work led to an NIH-funded program of research, including an NIH Challenge grant to understand heuristics underlying cancer pain treatment decision-making for African Americans and Whites. This work has uncovered opportune targets for interventions, and my current work is moving in this direction.
Who is your favorite role model—and why?
It is difficult to name one since I have been inspired by so many individuals whose works have established pain care disparities as a formal scientific area in need of strong research, advocacy, scholarship, and funding commitment: Knox Todd, Charles Cleeland, Carmen Green, Richard Payne, Raymond Tait, John Chibnall, April Vallerand, and Karen Anderson, to name a few. Some of these individuals have even become valuable mentors.
Featured in the January 2014 Issue of APS E-News