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Kirschstein award funds MD/PhD student’s research on opioid use disorder

MD/PhD student Pryce Michener
MD/PhD student Pryce Michener

Pryce Michener, an MD/PhD student at UMass Chan Medical School, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to further his research on substance use and medications for opioid use disorder. 

“Opioid use disorder is really prevalent where Im from,” said Michener, of Lawton, Oklahoma. “Its a pressing public health issue and a space where I can make a difference. With opioid use disorder, there are things we know theoretically would work well. My research is about how we can implement those programs and make sure theyre reaching the people they need to reach.” 

As part of his National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded grant, Michener is working with the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network on the implementation of treatments for opioid use disorder, specifically with methadone and buprenorphine, in Massachusetts jails. 

“I do a lot of qualitative research,” Michener said. “One of my recent works was looking at overdose risk. For people who are just getting out of jail or prison, theres a high rate of overdose deaths. Im looking at the risk factors that contribute to that and ways we can mitigate that risk.” 

He is mentored by Peter Friedmann, MD, MPH, professor of population & qualitative health sciences at UMass Chan-Baystate. 

Medications for opioid use disorderare the most effective means to prevent overdose,” said Dr. Friedmann. However, few jails provide them. Pryce has been working with me to study the implementation of medications for opioid use disorder in Massachusetts jails. This work will provide information to clinicians, legislators and criminal-legal policymakers about the advantages, challenges and best practices associated with provision of medications for opioid use disorder in correctional settings. 

Pryce is a talented and self-motivated emerging investigator. I have no doubt he will make significant contributions to the clinical care of persons with substance use disorders, Friedmann said. 

Michener majored in German and biology at Rhodes College in Memphis. He began studying German in college and decided to incorporate a German major into his pre-medical training. He studied German science fiction and researched the evolutionary development of stickleback fish at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany, after graduating from college.  

In the future, he hopes to specialize in family medicine or psychiatry with a focus on working with people with substance use disorders.