Chronic Pain Research Institute


D. J. Gromala
BFA (Mich), MFA (Yale), PhD (Plym)
Tel: 778.782.8013
Fax: 778.782.9422

As a long-term, degenerative syndrome that has come to be recognized as a disease in its own right, chronic pain is a complex phenomenon that affects at least 7 million Canadians, by conservative estimates. Chronic pain costs society, governments and families more than cancer, heart disease and HIV combined. It is a leading reason for doctor, hospital and emergency room visits, and has high rates of disability.

Chronic pain must be controlled and managed by attending to the sufferer’s biological, psychological and social needs. The need for this complexity of care was recognized when chronic pain was first described following World War II in a method now termed the biopsychosocial approach. Thus, expertise from a number of disciplines is needed to address these aspects. To this end, the Chronic Pain Research Institute aims to bring together researchers, practitioners, sufferers (“knowledge experts”) and caregivers in an dynamic environment that enables the exploration of multiple avenues of research, management and control of chronic pain. These avenues include technology and media development to address the psychological, social and biological aspects of chronic pain, as well as research methods and practices from evidence-based medicine, as well as methods from the humanistic and artistic domains to address the cultural aspects. Training and analyses of clinical practice are promising ways that may help create capacity for our health care system that is currently overwhelmed by the sheer demand. With our non-profit partners, advocacy will help educate the public and reduce the stigma often experienced by those who live with chronic pain.

To this end, a number of desirable outcomes can be provided by the institute:

·        An environment for research in chronic pain, including, for example, the development and evaluation of new technologies for pain research, pain management and pain self-management. This can be initially built by deploying SFU SIAT’s Pain Research Lab.

·        A multidisciplinary community of researchers:  British Columbia’s progressive and vibrant community of researchers, clinicians, patients and advocates is well known by Canadian pain researchers. Indeed, the contributions of the prominent pain physicians included in the institute have been recognized by BC and Canadian pain organizations. SFU faculty (Gromala, Shaw, Bartram, Riecke, Neustaedter) have noted experience with interdisciplinary collaborations and are already engaged in research initiatives with pain experts. Their research is supported by the CRC, NCE GRAND, CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC and provincial health research grants. The proposed institute will build upon this network.

·        Expand capacity. Currently, chronic pain overtaxes our health care system. Further, multi-disciplinary approaches prove difficult to sustain. Yet our vibrant pain experts have already identified efficiencies of post-surgical care, funded by the province. By examining in- and outpatient needs, as well as ways to mobilize caregivers in allied areas, the capacity for care may be expanded in ways that benefit all Canadians.

·        Build knowledge-to-action for the pain management community – practitioners, patients, researchers. Gromala, Shaw, Lau, Negraeff, Squire, Williamson, as well as Nursing researchers at UBC and patients in PainBC are already engaged in research initiatives that have already increased knowledge sharing capacity. The proposed institute will enable sustained research that focuses on putting research into action.

·        Accelerate transfer of clinical observations to researchers, and researchers to clinicians.

·        SFU has capacity for developing and evaluating pain management systems, as well as technical expertise that may accelerate the rates of research-to-clinical practice, and clinical observations-to-researchers. A currently funded research project is serving as an exemplar.

·        Create a research and training environment of excellence. Gromala’s Pain Research Studies Lab is accommodating much of our initial work, and will be the home of the institute.

·        Developed and built alongside Surrey’s new Gerontology Lab, it serves the needs of researchers, clinicians and knowledge users, who frequent it for Focus Groups and research meetings.

·        Create training opportunities for health professionals as well as professionals whose work is closely allied with health research, such as health informaticists, health economists and medical anthropologists.