President's Message

An Introduction and News About New Initiatives

By Rita Agarwal, MD, FAAP, FASA
Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology
Stanford School of Medicine
Stanford, California

Dr. Agarwal

Dr. Agarwal

It is such an honor to be writing my first President’s Message. We had an incredible meeting in Houston and despite the travel and weather emergencies (grounded Boeing 737s, bomb cyclones) we had great turn out and a wonderful engaging and thought-provoking conference. My sincerest thanks to Vidya Chidambaran, MD and M-Irfan Suleiman, MD, the entire Education Committee, speakers, moderators, members and Ruggles for an amazing and successful program. This organization is truly blessed with a dedicated, passionate group of members. Welcome to all the new Board members, and I hope all the Board Members who have rotated off will stay engaged and involved. There is still so much work to be done in improving the management of pediatric pain and we truly need all of you.

There may be some major changes occurring in the political landscape of pain organizations, as well as new laws, new regulations and new systems to navigate, but instead of discussing those changes, many of which are unsettled, I wanted to give you some of my background.

Many of you have seen me meandering around the SPA for years and have probably wondered:

  • “Who the heck is she?”
  • “Why does she have her finger in so many pots?”
  • “She's not a REAL pain doctor. Why is she so involved with the SPPM and is now the president?”
  • “Did she really match her clothes and slide backgrounds?”
  • ”Gadzooks, why is she so bossy?”

All fair questions. So here are some answers.

I was luckily enough to join the faculty at The Children’s Hospital, Denver at the time that the administration, medical staff and faculty were creating a Pain Service. I got involved, and found a fabulous mentor in Roxie Foster RN, PhD, who was a well-known pediatric pain researcher and integral part of the nursing school at the University of Colorado. I learned a lot from her and the nascent pain team in Denver, on the job, and from many of the giants in the field of pediatric pain management at conferences, in person, by phone, and on the Pediatric Pain email list. I became the Director of the Acute Pain Services until I had my twins, when I stepped down from that role, but remained active with the service and subsequently with the Inpatient Pain Service at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford.

Because of my role with the SPA Communications Committee, as Chair and Newsletter Editor, I had the honor of getting elected to the SPA Board of Directors. During my tenure on the Board, the number one identified strategic goal for the SPA was to improve pain management for all children, increase pain education and develop guidelines for commonly used analgesic treatments in children. Lynn Martin, MD knew of my interest in pain medicine and asked me to be the Board member spearheading that initiative. Together, with Sabine Kost-Byerly, and a lot of support from SPA members interested in pediatric pain management, regional anesthesia, acute pain care, and chronic pain, the SPA and Ruggles, we created a Special Interest Group in Pediatric Pain Management.

I put together the first informal educational offering as a half-day conference on a Thursday prior to the start of the SPA Winter Meeting to gauge the interest in pediatric pain medicine. There was a lot of interest and excitement about creating a section within the SPA dedicated to pediatric pain management. After a lot of work, by many people including the current and former SPPM board of directors and others, the SPPM was created. So many people were part of those early efforts and incredibly instrumental in establishing the SPPM and in progressing the mission and vision. Special thanks to Anjana Kundu, MBBS, and Sabine Kost-Byerly, MD for their tremendous leadership and vision. We will try to keep them both busy and engaged with ongoing projects, although Sabine uses the excuse of “retirement”!

There are so many wonderful new initiatives going on right now that will improve education, collaboration, research, and cooperation amongst all health care professionals who care for children in pain and ultimately will hopefully improve patient care and outcomes. Robert Wilder MD, PhD, the Vice President and Chair of the SPPM Education Committee, is working with the organizers of the International Society for Pediatric Pain Meeting in New Zealand in 2021, to create a sponsored panel or workshop. There are ongoing conversations with members of the SPA, ASA, American Pain Society (APS), American Society of Regional Anesthesia (ASRA), American Association of Pain Psychologists, US Pain and the American Academy of Pediatrics on ways to work together on education, conferences and other important initiatives.

I write this message as I prepare to go to Basel, Switzerland for the ISPP, and I am so excited to get educated, network further with colleagues from all over the world, and hopefully see many of you there.

I am so proud to be working for all of you. If you have ideas to improve the Society, education, patient care or anything else you think is important, please reach out to us. In the meantime, please enjoy this outstanding newsletter put together so expertly by Yuan-Chi Lin, MD and his colleagues.

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