After more than a decade of service as an educator at the Central Michigan University PA program, John Lopes, DHSc, PA-C, has joined the PAEA staff as its new MAT (Medication-Assisted Treatment) Initiative project director. Over the next two years, he will be responsible for carrying out the activities of the initiative with the goal of having 100% of students and faculty waiver-eligible to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder by 2020. John will:
- Bring the PA education perspective to existing MAT training
- Develop and implement a plan to have PA programs include training in their curriculum, allowing students to graduate waiver-eligible
- Ensure that PA faculty also take the training
- Coordinate the adoption of a unique PA student identifier number to track outcomes
With his extensive background both in education and as a practicing clinician providing care to those suffering from opioid use disorder, he is the ideal candidate, and the potential he brings to this project is impressive.
We recently sat down with John to learn more about him and his plans as project director.
Tell us a little about your background.
I graduated from the US Air Force (USAF) Physician Assistant Program in 1977 and spent 14 years as a USAF PA, practicing mostly in primary care and occupational medicine. I retired in 1991 and moved to southeast Illinois where I practiced in family medicine for 12 years. I finished a Doctor of Health Science degree in 2004, while I worked for the English National Health Service in Birmingham, England. I’ve been teaching at CMU for the past 12 years. For the last nine years I’ve used my clinical release time to work in an opiate treatment center providing MAT with methadone.
What does your new role entail?
My new role with PAEA will involve outreach to the more than 200 PA programs to help them integrate the MAT waiver training into their curriculum. I will also be developing an assessment program to monitor the success of the grant sub-award to determine how many graduates go on to receive the Drug Enforcement Administration waiver to prescribe buprenorphine.
What is your vision for the MAT Initiative?
Going forward, I would like to see 100% of graduating PAs having taken the MAT waiver training and, whether they receive the waiver or not, improving the identification of persons with use disorders and entrance into treatment.
What do you think is the most exciting aspect about your new role?
Being able to impact the national discussion about the opioid crisis and enhancing the curriculum of PA programs.
What do you anticipate being the greatest challenge of the initiative?
Implementing a national identifier for PA students that will allow PAEA and other interested parties to track graduates and assess the success of various programs such as grants and this MAT endeavor.
Why is the issue of opioid use disorder important to you?
Like millions of other Americans, our family has been personally touched by the opioid crisis. In addition, the stigma associated with having a use disorder needs to be lifted and access to treatment improved. Without these changes, it will be difficult to be successful in tackling this crisis.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My wife and I like to go camping, and I enjoy gardening and cooking. We also enjoy spending time with our two daughters and grandchildren.