Pfeiffer University Inaugural Class Awarded Funding for SUD Projects

In Fall 2020, I had the pleasure of listening to the members of the Inaugural Class of the Pfeiffer University’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies present their public health projects.  The projects ranged from how to combat childhood obesity, to the development and construction of a facility that would house a comprehensive substance use disorder (SUD) treatment program. There was a total of five projects. In the end, the class voted and decided to put their collective efforts behind “Smoking Prevention and Cessation in Stanly County: Project S.E.E.D.” 

The development of this project was led by Sam Gulledge PA-S, Kayla Miles, PA-S and Hunter Rogers, PA-S. These students, with the support of their classmates and my assistance, submitted a request for funding through the “Be the C.H.A.N.G.E” grant program sponsored by the National Commission for Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) Health Foundation. On March 12, 2021, the students were notified that their proposal was accepted for funding in the amount of $2,500.00.   

I had an opportunity to visit with the students recently and we discussed the significance of the funding and the impact they believe the project will have in Stanly County, North Carolina which is the county where their PA Program sits.  The students shared with me that Stanly County, as compared to other counties in North Carolina, has higher percentages of tobacco-related deaths, which include lung cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and premature deaths. Kayla Miles, PA-S and Hunter Rogers, PA-S emphasized the premise of the grant, which is to provide tobacco cessation education to school-aged children in 4th and 5th grade. In their grant application, they wrote, “Stressing the importance of smoking cessation to these children with the hope they will take the message to their parents will make the difference.” Their grant application also stresses that adult smoking has its roots in adolescence. If smoking does not begin during that period, it is unlikely that a person will begin smoking later in life. 

The project timeline is approximately 15 weeks. During this period, the inaugural class will provide facilitation and engage the current 1st year students around the implementation of the project.  They plan to engage local elementary school administrators, students, and parents during the first phase of the project. During the implementation phases, the students will use an interactive curriculum that is developed by the students themselves and Tar Wars to educate the children on the harmful effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure. The hope is that the children will pass this knowledge along to their parents and guardians. Beyond this work, the students look to the future and hope to expand this program from elementary schools into middle schools and high schools. 

In addition to the award received from the NCCPA Health Foundation, the Pfeiffer University PA Studies Program has also been awarded grant funding from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in collaboration with Dr. Sara McEwen and the Governor’s Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina. This funding will support medication assisted treatment (MAT) training for PA students who are pursuing a DEA-X Waiver. This training will enable the graduates from Pfeiffer to be eligible to treat patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) when they begin practicing next year. The funding that will directly support the program will be in the amount of $25,000.00 per year for 3 years. The students of the class Inaugural Class could see potentially see another dream partially come to fruition. That dream is to provide direct support to patients with OUD and connecting them to addiction medicine community resources. Congratulations to the Pfeiffer University Inaugural Class for your hard work and commitment to combatting SUD.