Jennifer Waljee, MD, MPH, MS –Prescription Drug Overdose

Member Highlight –February 2017

  • Jennifer Waljee, MD, MPH, MS (
    • Assistant Professor, Section of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Michigan School of Medicine

What is the focus of your current injury research? What are you currently working on?

My work is centered around understanding the factors that are correlated with patient-reported pain, opioid use, and opioid disposal following injury, and the strategies that providers could develop to prescribe opioids more safely in this context. We are currently working on defining the patterns of opioid use following traumatic injuries and non-elective surgical procedures following hospital discharge, as well as the knowledge and patterns of opioid disposal.

Why is this interesting to you?

In my clinical work, I have the opportunity to care for individuals who have suffered devastating upper extremity injuries and burn injuries. Although we have made great strides in the medical community with respect to improving the quality of many elements of care, much less is known regarding best practices around opioid prescribing following traumatic injuries.  Traumatic injuries are incredibly stressful, life-changing events for patients and their families, and as surgeons, we should ensure that we are not adding to their burden by creating strategies to prescribe opioids wisely and manage pain effectively.

What are the practical implications for this research in preventing injury, or in changes to injury-related policy?

To date, there are no guidelines regarding outpatient pain management for patients who undergo surgical procedures for traumatic injuries, and the factors that promote safe opioid use, storage, and disposal are unclear. Our work will hopefully identify opportunities to tailor prescriptions to patient needs and provide information to patients regarding safer opioid storage and disposal.

What do you think is the biggest misconception of your line of work or the injury topic that you research?

It is critical to maintain a patient-centered approach to understanding and managing pain after traumatic injuries, and ensure that patients experience a safe and comfortable recovery. I believe it is essential to include patient-reported outcomes, such as pain experienced, analgesic requirements, and medication behaviors, in research strategies to define best practices in this area.

What is the next project or area of research that you would like to pursue?

In upcoming research, we are interested in exploring the effectiveness of non-pharmacologic alternatives to opioid medications following surgical procedures. I believe that strategies to improve resilience and self-efficacy hold great promise in the setting of postoperative recovery.

Click here to view Dr. Waljee's Michigan Experts profile. 

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Article Type: