Pain Center Team

UMB Center to Advance Chronic Pain Research

University of Maryland, Baltimore

Conquering Pain

Pain is a passion for Susan Dorsey, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Joel Greenspan, PhD, co-directors of the new University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Center to Advance Chronic Pain Research.

Dorsey, associate professor and chair of the Department of Pain and Translational Symptom Science at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, researches new targets and pathways for quickly and effectively treating chronic pain. Greenspan, professor and chair of the Department of Neural and Pain Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, studies the neural mechanisms of pain and pain alleviation.

Their Center to Advance Chronic Pain Research (CACPR) brings all pain research at the University under one umbrella organization to foster collaborative work and expand the quest for solutions for pain sufferers. The center will pursue research partnerships with scientific groups worldwide, as well as at UMB. The University’s interdisciplinary spirit lends itself to this type of work, the co-directors explain.

“The University of Maryland, Baltimore is a wonderfully collaborative campus, with its world-class faculty and programs, and the proximity to NIH and other health sciences universities,” Dorsey says.

Working with other scientists can unleash the potential of research in ways not possible when working in silos, Greenspan explains. “Even as we all work on our individual initiatives, some accomplishments are realized only with coordinated efforts of talented and dedicated colleagues,” he says. “This reality is what kindles a great excitement about our new pain center.”

Dorsey and Greenspan both are noted scholars in their field. Greenspan has studied pain mechanisms and somesthesis — encompassing senses such as touch, thermosensation and pain — for more than 30 years. He helped build the School of Dentistry’s Department of Neural and Pain Sciences. He has published more than 100 scholarly articles in the field, has helped organize three scientific conferences that brought together international audiences, and serves on the editorial board of the distinguished European Journal of Pain. Recently, he co-authored two series of papers appearing as special issues of The Journal of Pain, describingresults from the largest prospective study of orofacial pain ever conducted.

Dorsey has distinguished herself with her work in the molecular, cellular, and genetic mechanisms and chronic pain. Dorsey joined the School of Nursing faculty in 2004 and her research has been funded continuously since then by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Pain Society. In recent years, she has focused upon translational research that seeks to take scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic and from clinic back to bench. Her drive to uncover the sources of chronic pain began during her time at the patient’s bedside, Dorsey says.

“I aspire every day to be the best possible scientist that I can be,” she explains. “I started my career in nursing, where I saw firsthand how poorly we were able to effectively manage pain. I also noted how few treatments we had to combat the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, let alone curative strategies.”

The pain center, its co-directors, and its associated researchers will strive for those clinical advances that will pay dividends for the millions suffering pain worldwide — in primary health care clinics, emergency rooms, and living with chronic pain.