January 20, 2010
Contact: Public Affairs and Publications
508-856-2000; ummsnews@umassmed.edu 


Many physicians feel unskilled in counseling patients to quit their tobacco use

WORCESTER, Mass. – Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), Harvard School of Public Health and Ohio State University will share a $3.8 million five-year grant to study the tobacco treatment skills of medical students. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, UMMS will work with ten medical schools across the country to test a novel teaching method, Multi-Modal Education (MME), aimed at enhancing students’ skills in treating their future patients’ tobacco addiction.

“Each year more than 450,000 Americans die of tobacco-related diseases, and we know that lives are saved when people stop using tobacco,” said Judith K. Ockene, PhD, MEd, MA, the Barbara Helen Smith Chair in Preventive & Behavioral Medicine and professor of medicine at UMMS and Principal Investigator of the grant. “However, few physicians feel they are skilled in appropriate and effective counseling of their patients who use tobacco, and many report that they received little or no such training in medical school.”

Through the study, “A Randomized Controlled Trial to Improve Tobacco Treatment Skills of Medical Students,” five of the ten schools will provide their students with Multi-Modal Education, which includes a web-based tobacco treatment education coupled with traditional education methods. The web-based program is a self-paced program focusing on understanding tobacco dependence, understanding and guiding behavior change, and using pharmacotherapy to help patients stop smoking. The web-based tobacco program has an interactive component allowing the student to observe successful tobacco treatment. The intervention also includes classroom role-play and “academic detailing.” Through academic detailing, the students’ clinical preceptors will receive personalized training to first teach and then model ideal treatment skills in the clinical setting.

In the traditional tobacco education arm of the study, the remaining five medical schools will continue to use their own tobacco education program, which includes lectures, reading materials and some role play. Study outcome will be determined by using standardized patients in each arm of the study, web-based tobacco education and traditional tobacco education. [Standardized patients—people trained to portray a simulated patient scenario and provide feedback to students for instruction and skills assessment—would help demonstrate whether the medical students are providing the intervention as designed.]

Participating medical schools include University of Alabama at Birmingham, Louisiana State University, Creighton University, Stanford, University of Minnesota, University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, Georgetown, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Iowa. Other participating researchers at UMMS are Drs. Thomas Houston, Doug Ziedonis, Rashelle Hayes, Qin Liu, and Program Directors Linda Churchill, MS, and Denise Jolicoeur, MS.

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research. The Medical School attracts more than $240 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. The mission of the Medical School is to advance the health and well-being of the people of the commonwealth and the world through pioneering education, research, public service and health care delivery with its clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care. For more information, visit www.umassmed.edu.