Beth Darnall, PhD
Clinical Associate Professor
Stanford University School of Medicine
Division of Pain Medicine
Stanford Systems Neuroscience and Pain Laboratory
How has membership in APS been of value to you and your professional development?
I am a pain psychologist, and for this reason I decided early on to make APS my professional society home. I attend every annual conference, and doing so allowed me to establish key relationships and network with APS leadership. Ultimately, this led to my own leadership development within APS. For 3 years I have served on the Scientific Program Committee for the annual conference. I also serve on the Ethics Committee, the Clinical Guidelines Committee, and the Leadership Development Committee (Nominating Committee). I have also been active in the Ethics Special Interest Group (SIG) and in 2013 I became chair of this SIG.
I am also indebted to APS for catalyzing my pain research career. In 2006 I was awarded a "Future Leaders in Pain Research" grant from APS. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this seed grant and how it transformed my future. I continue to study the concepts of my early APS-funded research—a main current empirical focus examines the immune, sensory perception, and neural correlates of catastrophizing.
What is your area of specialty?
My area of specialty is pain psychology. I am a clinician scientist and equally enjoy working with patients, teaching patients and faculty, and conducting research.
What has been a highlight of your work? Perhaps you and your staff are proud of a certain project or accomplishment?
I recently wrote a book for patients who have chronic pain, Less Pain, Fewer Pills: Avoid the Dangers of Opioids and Gain Control Over Chronic Pain. It is due out in March 2014 from Bull Publishing. This book provides patients with opioid education and a rationale for why minimizing opioids is in their best interest. I provide patients with a roadmap to either manage pain without opioids, or to take them as mindfully as possible.
In addition, before leaving Oregon for California I served as the 2012 president of the Pain Society of Oregon. This was a tremendous honor. At the time I was elected, the PSO was the only multidisciplinary state pain organization in the United States. Happily, Washington state has now joined the ranks!
What initially sparked your interest in working in your field? Briefly describe your career path.
I did my clinical internship at the Tucson VA Hospital where much of the patient population has chronic pain. I loved working with the veterans and found that I connected well with people who were suffering. From there, I did a post-doctoral fellowship at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where I worked with patients with amputation, spinal cord injury, or catastrophic burn. Mine was a research fellowship, and the focus was on describing prevalence of various amputation-related pain conditions in amputees. From there I served as faculty at Oregon Health and Science University for 6 years before joining the Division of Pain Medicine at Stanford University in late 2012. I never really set out to become a pain psychologist and pain researcher; it unfolded for me one step at a time. But I must say that I could not have planned it any better if I tried. I truly love where I am and I love what I do!
Who is your favorite role model and why?
I don't know about a specific person, but I will say that I truly admire individuals who take risks in order to follow their truth. I recognize that it takes huge courage, as following one's truth tends to cause wild inconvenience in the lives of others. I honor that courage and find it inspiring; we need more of it in the world.
Featured in the October 2013 Issue of E-News