President’s Message: Looking Back and Many Thanks

Harry J. Gould, III MD, PhD

When I was reminded this time that the deadline for articles for the fall edition of the newsletter was approaching, I realized that my term as President of the Southern Pain Society is rapidly coming to its end.  Events that mark milestones in a career, tend to prompt one to pause and reflect upon whether time was well spent and whether efforts made were on a par with the challenge. It has been my great fortune and privilege to have been able to work as part of a fabulous team of caring, enthusiastic and dedicated individuals, committed to improving pain care and the quality of life for those in need. 

Realistically, I knew that we were not going to remedy the unfortunate, past, present and future sequela of the opioid crisis and eliminate entirely suffering in the population that is due to poorly or improperly managed pain.  I do believe, however, that despite the unforeseen challenges of the past 2 years, we as a society have done well.  We have continued to provide high quality education and opportunities for healthcare providers, trainees and patients that promote proper evaluation, appropriate management and a reduction in the risk of adverse effects for patients, family and society.

My primary regrets lie in having to use a virtual platform in lieu of an in person meeting in 2020 and for the cancellation of the meeting in 2021.  I have missed the in-person forum for reviewing and determining the current state of the art and for exchanging and developing new ideas.  As is probably true for most of us, I tend to be quite focused on my work and proximal goals and seem to live a largely secluded life in my own specialty ‘silo’ with minimal exchange between colleagues outside my immediate co-workers except for sharing greetings and acknowledgement when passing in the hallway.  With time and the lack of fresh input, efforts become routine and as a result, less exciting.  I recognized this early in my career, when I realized a significant boost of energy and excitement upon returning home from an annual meeting of one of my professional societies where the exchange of ideas and discussion, frequently in an informal setting, often over food and/or libation, made it possible for me to relax, to learn about what others were doing, to view my area of interest in a different light and to discover new ideas and questions to explore.  Over time, in person meetings have continued to provide an important mechanism to meet new people, to be involved in influencing how my field of interest develops and later, as lagniappe, to reconnect and catch up with old friends. This experience is much less likely to happen in meetings hosted on a virtual platform. 

As I pass the baton to our current President-elect, Thomas Davis MD,  I will have the great pleasure, as current President of the Southern Pain Society, of participating in our first in person annual meeting since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.  The meeting will take place October 7-9 in New Orleans at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel and offers an excellent program planned to cover a broad spectrum of topics of interest to healthcare providers and trainees from all specialties that care for patients with pain. 

As the title of the meeting suggests, “The Times They Are Still A-Changin’, we have witnessed the implementation of practice guidelines for opioid analgesics, a significant reduction in prescriptions written for opioid medications over the last 15 years, a mandated increase in education in the risks and use of opioid medications, an improvement in our assessment of potential medication misuse and abuse for risk mitigation, and an increased awareness of high risk medication combination, yet overdose deaths remain too high and too many patients still suffer from uncontrolled pain.  Clearly, the challenges evident in 1931 and expressed by Albert Schweitzer almost a century ago, “We must all die.  But that I can save him from days of torture, that is what I feel as my great and ever new privilege.  Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death.” still remain.  The goals are worthy and warrant our continued efforts to achieve them. I encourage everyone to attend the meeting, to join with and support the Southern Pain Society and become involved as we prepare for the future and work toward improving our understanding of pain, to enable patients to become partners in their care and to achieve an improved quality of life without doing harm.

I look forward to seeing you at the meeting.