by Lesli Hill, PAINS Advisory Committee Volunteer Coordinator

PAINS Advisory Committee member Lonnie Zeltzer, M.D. is a woman with a passion for empowering people who live with pain with education to help them be informed and vocal participants in their pain care. Her life work in pediatric pain medicine has given her a unique perspective on patient empowerment. She welcomes the opportunity to teach her young patients, their parents, their families and the many people she reaches during her lectures throughout the year. She has watched children grow into adulthood, managing painful conditions with courage and resolve She has witnessed how empowerment changes lives.

Zeltzer took this experience with her as she served on the IOM committee that produced Relieving Pain in America: a Blueprint for Change.1 Serving on the PAINS advisory committee is a further extension of her experience and passion. She is concerned about the vast disconnect that occurs between policy about pain and people who live with pain. She sees how access to quality healthcare is painfully uneven and how social biases permeate the health system and come to rest heavily in the lives of those who live with pain.

She is encouraged by the groundbreaking advances in neuroscience that demonstrate the evidence of neuroplasticity, seeing the potential that individuals have to rewire neural pain pathways to change how they experience pain. These scientific advances have created an awareness of pain in the current biopsychosocial context.

Seeing her patients in this holistic definition of chronic pain informs her interactions with them. For her, biopsychosocial is more than an adjective used to describe an academic concept. It is a way that she chooses to be present with her patients as she steps back from the diagnoses and takes in an understanding of her patient as a person.

It is though this intentional interaction that she offers a deep personal empowerment opportunity. By doing so, she gives hope a chance to thrive.

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1Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care, and Education. Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. Available from: doi: 10.17226/13172