Churack Chair of Chronic Pain Education and Research Newsroom

Churack Chair Newsletter #6, November 2018

Welcome to the sixth edition of the Churack Chair Newsletter - a newsletter which provides supporters and friends of the Churack Chair of Chronic Pain Education and Research with the latest updates on how the Chair is reducing the impact of chronic pain in our community through research and the education of medical students in the area of chronic pain management.

As always, we express our gratitude for your ongoing support, dedication and interest.

Advancing Pain Medicine Education for Students

We continue to make significant inroads into the day-to-day practical education of our Medicine students within the classroom and hospital corridors.

We have undertaken considerable new research on Pain Medicine Education via Mrs Elspeth Shipton, PhD candidate. Mrs Shipton has worked in the field of Pain Medicine for twenty-five years and her focus of research is the education of medical students in pain medicine.

We have developed a bank of pain multiple choice test questions for use by medical schools and completed the first trial of a simulated oral examination – known as an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). The OSCE assesses medical students’ evaluation skills, knowledge, critical thinking and attitudes regarding chronic pain. We thank Professor Jane Courtney, Associate Professor Elina Tor and their education team in the School of Medicine, Fremantle for their outstanding support of these initiatives.

We continue to conduct lectures in pain medicine for medical students and healthcare professionals and our curricula focus remains teaching pain medicine and management in both professional and college based institutes. We have proposed a two-day intensive immersion for Notre Dame Medicine students to join the pain rounds for inpatients at St John of God Subiaco Hospital, which will significantly contribute to their better understanding of chronic pain treatment and care.

St John of God Subiaco Hospital is one of the few facilities in Western Australia to offer an acute pain service for inpatients immediately after surgery. This service assists inpatients with complex, acute and chronic pain and includes the assessment and management of pain as well as education to caregivers, patients and families about individualised pain management.

“I recognise the important role teaching and training of the next generation of clinicians plays in ensuring the implementation of best practice pain management, which is why medical students undertake rounds with me at the hospital.

This also helps them gain first-hand experience about acute pain service applications. In my role as Chair I plan to ensure all medical and health sciences graduates at the university become 'pain champions' (educators, advocates and researchers) who excel in clinical pain management." Professor Eric Visser


In previous editions of the Churack Chair newsletter we have provided updates on a significant project to develop the PAINCHECKER online pain resource and we are pleased to report that this project is making exciting advancements.

Working closely with Dr Erin Horlsey, GP liaison at SJOGH Subiaco, and Dr Luke Wheeler, medical practitioner and current Notre Dame Masters in Physiotherapy student, the PAINCHECKER pain management checklist system is currently being developed to help manage chronic back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, fibromyalgia and headaches. This online best-practice checklist system can be used by a GP during consultations and will also provide links for persons-in-pain to help them with self-management.

Current Research Collaborations & Partnerships

Research into Wounds, Burns and Spinal Cord Pain

Professor Peter Drummond and his team at the Centre for Research on Chronic Neuropathic Pain and Inflammatory Diseases, in conjunction with the Professor Fiona Wood Foundation, have been working extensively to investigate pain associated with wounds and burns, allowing us to explore alternative methods for treating chronic nerve pain.

Professor Visser, alongside Professor Benjamin Wand from Notre Dame’s School of Physiotherapy, plan to work in cooperation with Associate Professor James McAuley at Neuroscience Research Australia to investigate the use of a new drug in the treatment of spinal cord based pain.

The MIGRANT Migraine Study

Migraine affects 15% of the population and is a leading cause of pain, suffering and disability in our community.

Work continues with Professor Jim Codde at Notre Dame’s Institute of Health Research on the MIGRANT migraine trial. This study has enrolled 90 migraine patients to investigate a new vitamin-based treatment that has never been studied before and, if effective, may play an important role in migraine prevention. The study aims to be completed in the next six months.

This study has enrolled 90 migraine patients to investigate a new vitamin-based treatment that has never been studied before and, if effective, may play an important role in migraine prevention. The study aims to be completed in the next six months.

Post-operative Pain and Opioid Use

Working with Mrs Jill Kelly (nurse practitioner), Ms Nisha Sikotra (senior nurse researcher) and Ms Julia Lee-Visser (research assistant) at SJOG Subiaco Hospital, we have commenced our audit on post-operative pain and opioid use following day case surgery.

Research Awards and Grants

The John Boyd Craig Research Award

Earlier this month we were fortunate to receive The John Boyd Craig Research Award from the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA). This Award enables our team, including Professor Peter Drummond and Dr Natalie Morellini at Murdoch University, to further research into nerve pain neuroscience and for that we are incredibly grateful. ANZCA have been exceeding helpful in supporting our research programme and we thank them sincerely.

Spinnaker Health Research Foundation Grant

We were recently awarded a Spinnaker Health Research Foundation Grant. Professor Fiona Wood and Professor Peter Drummond join Chief Investigator, Dr Morellini, to utilise this grant to research chronic pain and tissue healing after burns and wounds. We are especially grateful for this Award which encourages and supports our research collaborations.

Increasing the Churack Chair Profile

Our research students are an integral part of strengthening our research community, contributing to our reputation for excellence and enhancing the profile of the Churack Chair.

We currently have one post-doctoral fellow, Dr Natalie Morellini, and two PhD candidates, Mrs Elspeth Shipton and Dr Andrew Jan. Two new PhD candidates will be commencing in the near future – one researching back pain and another investigating online learning systems for students and healthcare practitioners to help access information to treat problems such as low back pain.

We continue to receive strong interest and support from the media about chronic pain and our research endeavours. If you have not already viewed the Channel 7 news coverage of Professor Drummond and Doctor Morellini’s research into pain neuroscience and Doctor Andrew Jan’s research into acupuncture for pain management, the links can be found here on our website.

Professor Visser presents regularly to professional and student organisations on pain issues and in the past six months he has attended 25 seminars, lectures and meetings which further support the progress of the Chair. He regularly contributes educational articles for Medical Forum and Pain Management Today which reach thousands of doctors nationally. The profile of the Chair was further increased recently with Professor Visser’s appointment as Chair of Examinations for the Faculty of Pain Medicine. He also remains a member of the School of Medicine, Fremantle Research Committee.

  • Research papers

    Key research papers generated via the Churack Chair:

    Shipton EE, Bate F, Garrick R, Steketee C, Visser EJ. Pain medicine content, teaching and assessment in medical school curricula in Australia and New Zealand. BMC medical education. 2018 Dec;18(1):110.

    Shipton EE. Oral Presentation at the annual Australian Pain Society Scientific meeting held in Sydney, Australia in April 2018.

    Shipton EE. Poster presentation of review of pain medicine education internationally at the IASP 17th World Congress on Pain held in Boston, USA in September 2018.  Submitted a paper on a review of published literature on tools to assess knowledge, attitudes and skills of medical students with regard to pain medicine to Pain Reports.

    Morellini N, Finch PM, Goebel A, Drummond PD. Dermal nerve fibre and mast cell density, and proximity of mast cells to nerve fibres in the skin of patients with complex regional pain syndrome. Pain. 2018 Jun 12. PubMed PMID: 29905655.

    Drummond PD, Morellini N, Finch PM, Birklein F, Knudsen LF. Complex regional pain syndrome: intradermal injection of phenylephrine evokes pain and hyperalgesia in a subgroup of patients with upregulated alpha1-adrenoceptors on dermal nerves. Pain. 2018 Jul 2. PubMed PMID: 29994991.

    Jan AL, Rogers I, Visser EJ. Acupuncture for analgesia in the emergency department: a multicentre, randomised, equivalence and non-inferiority trial. The Medical Journal of Australia. 2018 Mar 5;208(4):188-9.

    Jan AL, Aldridge ES, Rogers IR, Visser EJ, Bulsara MK, Niemtzow RC. Does ear acupuncture have a role for pain relief in the emergency setting? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medical acupuncture. 2017 Oct 1;29(5):276-89.

    Jan AL, Aldridge ES, Rogers IR, Visser EJ, Bulsara MK, Niemtzow RC. Does acupuncture have a role in providing analgesia in the emergency setting? A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Emergency Medicine Australasia. 2017 Oct;29(5):490-8.

With Thanks

We sincerely thank you – our donors, supporters and friends - for your help and support past, present and future.

Our thanks and best wishes, as always, extend to Geoff and Moira Churack and their family and friends for making this all possible.

We appreciate the ongoing and strong support of the Dean of the School of Medicine, Fremantle, Professor Gervase Chaney, all those at the School of Medicine, the University’s Research Office and St John of God Subiaco Hospital whose partnership with the University to further research into pain research will help empower patients and enhance medical professionals’ knowledge of pain management.

We look forward to sharing ongoing updates and the Chair’s next milestones.

With kind regards

Professor Eric Visser and the Churack Chair team



Support the Churack Chair – Make a Gift

Your contribution will not only better aid and equip future medical graduates in the area of specialised chronic pain treatment and care, it will shape the direction of chronic pain research and rehabilitation across Australia and throughout the world. Please join with us in raising funds to ensure this project can reach its potential and not only bring a quality of life back to chronic pain sufferers but also a healing knowledge to Australian doctors and health care professionals.

Make a Gift

Churack Chair website

Seven News media story