Advocating for Change from Within

Beth Murinson

To institute broad change in medicine, particularly in the field of pain care, Beth Murinson knew the recipe: Start with a heaping dose of reform in medical education, add a pinch of skills and stir frequently with patience. Addressing the gnawing inadequacy of pain care in America is a task that will require more than a few pain advocates but for Murinson it meant starting with a successful model of pain care education at her own school of medicine, the prestigious Johns Hopkins. After several years of consistent effort, she’s reaching her . And once successful, she plans to ‘turn up the heat’ on pain education across the country.

Currently, there are only three medical schools in the United States and Canada that require their students to learn about pain in specific courses. However, pain is the main reason most patients see a doctor, and physicians need to have training in effective treatment methods.

Murinson’s goal was to increase awareness about the value of pain education. Recognizing that “most young doctors lack adequate preparation to treat the physical needs and emotional vulnerabilities of patients with pain,” she used the skills acquired the Mayday Pain & Society Workshop as a platform to begin her campaign to transform medical education in pain – starting at Johns Hopkins.

As the Director of Pain Education in Neurology and a full-time faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Murinson has been working since 20004 to revise the school curriculum. Starting in the fall of 2009, all medical students will take a three-and- a-half day course dedicated to pain. Other elements of pain education will be incorporated throughout the four years of coursework. Murinson is hopeful that this curriculum will act as a model for change in schools across the nation. Murinson is now co-directing a hospital-wide task force whose mission is to educate Hopkins healthcare-providers about pain assessment and treatment.

Her advocacy efforts don’t end at Hopkins. In the last few months, Murinson has created a special interest group for the American Pain Society to foster communication about educational approaches and encourage sharing of exceptional teaching resources. By using what she learned at the training, Murinson developed a clear message, cultivated intense interest among of stakeholders and ultimately generated an illustrious list of founding signatories for the special interest group.

Murinson’s Mayday training prepared her to work more effectively with media. She was recently interviewed by ABC News for its “Medical Mysteries” segment because of her work on patients with Stiff Persons’ Syndrome. Murinson was able to take charge of her interview and deliver important pain messages about under treatment and the need for increased awareness about pain care.

“Mayday introduced me to the idea of working with media and gave me the tools to be a credible medical expert for those in media. My Mayday fellows’ training changed me from ‘media-skeptic’ to someone with a positive perspective on media as an outlet for important messages that I want to communicate” she said.

Murinson is also sought after as a medical expert by policy makers and has spoken at briefings in Washington, DC and Annapolis, MD raising awareness of the need for measures encompassed in the National Pain Care Policy Act. The department of Veterans Affairs invited her to speak about the effects of pain on patient-physician relationships at their recent national pain leadership conferences.


Beth Murinson, MS, MD, PhD, is a 2005-6 Mayday fellow and is an Assistant Professor and the Director of Pain Education in Neurology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

23 March 2016