The Opioid Epidemic: How did we get here, and what do we do now?

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The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg will present renowned epidemiologist Donald S. Burke, MD, in a discussion entitled, “The Opioid Epidemic: How did we get here, and what do we do now?” The program, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for Wednesday, February 15, at 7 p.m. in Ferguson Theater (Smith Hall) at the Greensburg campus. To ensure a seat, people planning to attend are asked to call 724-836-7980 by Monday, February 13.

The United States is facing what many are calling an opioid epidemic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 33,000 people died from opioid addiction in 2015 (https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/). Burke, writing in the November 2016 issue of the journal “Science,” estimates that, since 2000, almost half a million Americans have died from drug overdoses.

“This is one of the top health-related challenges facing our country and region,” said Dr. Sharon P. Smith, president of Pitt-Greensburg and chair of the Excela Health board of trustees. “As a community, we need to look at ways of stemming this epidemic that adversely affects so many lives. It also impacts how we direct and use our community resources.”

Through his research at the University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh), Burke found that the leading cause of death for middle-aged residents of Pennsylvania was overdose. That led to developing a team of researchers with a range of specialties who are tasked with asking new questions about opioid addiction and answering them in creative and cost-effective ways.

Writing in “Science,” Burke proposes a new, public health-oriented approach to better understand the underlying system dynamics associated with this opioid epidemic. He also notes that creative ways to access data (overdose death records, prescription data, illicit drug seizure data, self-reported drug use patterns, urine drug testing data, etc.) that are either not publicly available, have exorbitant costs, or are proprietary, need to be developed.

At the University of Pittsburgh, Burke is the dean of the Graduate School of Public Health, director of the Center for Vaccine Research, and associate vice chancellor for global health at the University of Pittsburgh. He leads a trans-disciplinary team that develops computational models and simulations of epidemic infectious diseases and uses these simulations to evaluate prevention and control strategies. Burke has spent his professional career studying the prevention and control of infectious diseases of global concern, including HIV/AIDS, influenza, dengue, and emerging infectious diseases. He currently serves on the Board of Health for Allegheny County (Pittsburgh). Burke is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Epidemiological Society.

Publication Date

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 - 9:30am