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National Institute on Drug Abuse Center of Excellence

About the Center

Drexel University College of Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, is one of four academic medical sites serving as national Centers of Excellence for Physician Information by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

These centers function as national models to support the advancement of addiction awareness, prevention and treatment in primary care specialties such as internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics. The centers target physicians-in-training, including medical students and residents, to identify what they should learn about substance abuse and to develop curriculum that will help physicians identify, assess and refer patients with substance abuse disorders.

"While substance abuse disorders are a major cause of disability and death nationally, and the medical complications of these disorders heavily burden the health care system, most medical schools provide only minimal substance abuse education to students and residents in primary care," said Barbara Schindler, MD, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine, who is co-principal investigator for the Drexel/Penn Center of Excellence. "Drexel University College of Medicine has integrated substance abuse education into many of the clinical cases used in our curriculum, providing specific lectures, resource sessions and clinical skills experiences that focus on evaluating and treating patients with addictive disorders."

Dr. Schindler and colleagues at Drexel University College of Medicine currently have several drug abuse research projects and specialized clinical care programs underway, including studies into the effects of maternal cocaine addiction on infants and children, and the treatment of women with co-morbid addictive and psychiatric disorders.

Drexel and the other Centers of Excellence will explore a variety of drug abuse topics, including prescription drug abuse, methamphetamine abuse and addiction, and substance abuse among people with mental illness. The centers will identify knowledge gaps about drug addiction, develop educational materials and resources to address those gaps, and determine the most effective means of delivering this information.

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Center Activities

To accomplish its goals, the Center of Excellence proposes a multi-step approach.

Step One: Assess Gaps in Knowledge

The project team identifies what medical students and residents know about substance abuse through focus groups and surveys.

Step Two: Identify Curriculum Content

Based on survey and focus group results, and in consultation with other collaborators, the project team identifies core knowledge and skills for medical students and residents.

Step Three: Develop Innovative Educational Interventions

The project team develops a two-part curriculum to help medical students and residents identify, assess and refer patients with drug addictions. The curriculum includes:

  1. a multimedia, web-based learning module with multiple-choice questions to assess student/resident level of knowledge; and
  2. a real-time, web-based Objective Standardized Clinical Examination with a standardized patient to practice realistic patient-doctor interactions.

Both components are designed to give students and residents feedback on their level of knowledge and skill.

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