Finding her Voice

Anne Louise Oaklander

Anne Louise Oaklander makes a strong argument: neurological problems are a major and unrecognized cause of chronic mystery pain. Her goal, with the help of her training at the Mayday Pain & Society Workshop, is to make other influential people recognize this argument so that these patients can receive correct neurological diagnoses and therapies to relieve the cause of their pain

Oaklander, after finishing a PhD and a postdoctoral fellowship in peripheral nerve, realized that, “someone with good training in the neurobiology of nerve injury could help advance medical care and scientific understanding for patients with chronic neuropathic pain.”

Through the training and the coaching sessions, Oaklander developed her writing and communication skills. As a well-respected researcher in one of the most-respected institutions in the country, Oaklander learned how to use her position to make a difference. She soon realized that being proactive and seizing opportunities with reporters or editors can lead to success.

“It emboldened me to go ahead with a plan I already had to write directly for the public in addition to the writing I already do for medical and scientific audiences,” she said.

And Oaklander quickly found her voice. Within the first weeks of coaching, she wrote and placed an op-ed in the Boston Globe, and then kept this op-ed alive for weeks. She shared it with internal public affairs and with the American Pain Foundation newsletter where it was reprinted in its entirety. She has worked with high level media from The New Yorker to Wired Magazine and ABC News and has maintained her clear message that neurological problems are a leading cause of chronic pain.

While she described herself as feeling “out of her element” with the media prior to the training, she is now “much more proactive and not only with regards to journalists but also with regards to contacting professional societies and the editors of prestigious medical journals to get them to consider articles on pain.”

Anne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD, is a 2007-08 Mayday Fellow and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Oaklander is also a member of the Neurology and Pathology Departments at Massachusetts General Hospital.

23 March 2016