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Northeast Emergency Medicine Interest Group Symposium explores the opioid crisis

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The opioid epidemic as a health care emergency was the topic of the 6th Annual Northeast Emergency Medicine Interest Group Symposium held on Jan. 26, 2019, at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell which brought together 90 students from medical schools across the local region.

The one-day conference began with a keynote address on the rapid rise and effect of opioid addiction, and our accountability to support society by Zucker School of Medicine assistant professor of medicine and emergency medicine, Sandeep Kapoor, MD, whose powerful introduction was punctuated by moving patient perspectives sharing their journey of substance use and leaving the attendees with the hopeful message that treatment is available, and recovery is achievable.  

“If you don’t suffer from addiction or are not related to someone who does, it’s easy enough to dismiss addiction as someone else’s problem—it is not,” said Dr. Kapoor who is director of SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) at Northwell Health and member of the Northwell Opioid Management Steering Committee. “Our organization, along with many others in the community, are working to motivate a shift in the narrative around this disease.”

The discussion continued with guest keynote speaker, Marc Su, MD, director of the New York City Poison Control Center and clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at NYU School of Medicine, who addressed the toxicity and prolonged effects of opioid use as well as approaches to treatment of opioid use disorder and prevention within diverse communities of the New York metro area.

A panel discussion with residency directors from local programs highlighted served to inform the medical students about residency training in emergency medicine, including how to apply and what to expect.  Attendees then rotated through a series of four skills-based workshops featuring a clinical reasoning case with simulation mannequins, instruction on ultrasound use, and practiced exercises in wilderness medicine, an emergency medicine subspecialty which relies on the ability to manage trauma in a remote setting when help is miles away, including how to handle situations that entail prolonged patient care, severe environments, and improvised equipment.  In line with the symposium theme, each student was offered education on opioid overdose prevention, recognition, response, and naloxone (Narcan) rescue—a medication used to reverse an opioid overdose.  Students practiced using demo naloxone units and then received a free rescue kit to take home back to their community as newly trained first responders for the opioid crisis. 

“Planning this conference was a true exercise in teamwork. I have incredible respect for my team members and am in awe of what good communication, hard work, and vision can accomplish,” said second-year medical student, Danielle Llanos, an organizer for the event along with classmates Zarina Brune and Jeff Yang. “I hope that all of the conference attendees were reminded how important it is to recognize the patient experience while delivering care, and how powerful their voices can be to make an impact in this field.”

Special thanks to Gino Farina, MD, assistant dean for clinical preparation for residency and professor of emergency medicine, and the Zucker School of Medicine Office of Student Affairs for assistance in organizing this year’s EMIG symposium. 

About the author

Adrienne Stoller

Adrienne Stoller is communications manager at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. For more information about news items or media inquiries, please send a message to or call 516-463-7585.

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