VCU experts serve on new Governor’s Advisory Commission on Opioids and Addiction

Faculty and alumnus contribute real-world education, first-response, rehabilitation and medical experience to the commission.

VCU experts have been appointed to the Governor's Advisory Commission on Opioids and Addiction. (...
VCU experts have been appointed to the Governor's Advisory Commission on Opioids and Addiction. (Getty Images)

An executive order forming the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Opioids and Addiction was signed on Sept. 26. VCU faculty bring expertise in addiction recovery, ambulatory services, medicine and dentistry to the 27-member commission.

Northam stated that the commission’s primary efforts will focus on the opioid crisis but it also will address multiple aspects of addiction. Drug overdoses have been the leading cause of accidental deaths in Virginia since 2013, Northam wrote in the executive order establishing the commission. In 2017, more than 1,500 people in Virginia died from an overdose. More than 80 percent overdosed on heroin, synthetic opioids like fentanyl or prescription opioids.

The following VCU experts and alumnus were named to the commission:

Fourth District Del. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, an alumnus of VCU’s School of Dentistry, is a commission member who introduced legislation that requires surgeons to check the Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program before prescribing more than seven days of opioids.

“Combating the opioid epidemic has been one of my top priorities since being elected to the General Assembly,” Pillion said. “As a pediatric dentist and public official, I have seen the heartbreak and destructive power of this disease in communities and in families of all backgrounds. More powerful, though, has been the resolve and willingness of communities to unite and work together to remove the stigma and address the complicated issues related to this crisis.”

Mishka Terplan, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the VCU School of Medicine, is the director of the MOTIVATE Clinic and has studied the impact of opioid use disorder during pregnancy.

“During the tragedy that is the opioid crisis, we have the opportunity to truly address the behavioral health burden in the commonwealth and to fully integrate addiction assessment and treatment into our health care system,” Terplan said.

Omar Abubaker, Ph.D., D.M.D., a professor in the VCU School of Dentistry and chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery, teaches courses to dentistry students on safe opioid prescribing and to nursing students on how to work with patients who struggle with addiction. Abubaker also was chosen for the commission because of his personal connection to the opioid epidemic. He lost his son, Adam Abubaker, to an overdose on heroin and benzodiazepine.

Tom Bannard is coordinator and co-founder of Rams in Recovery, which assists students recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and other addictive behaviors. He knows the difficulties of coping with addiction as a student firsthand. In 2008, he returned to University of Virginia to continue his disrupted education after undergoing rehab for drug and alcohol abuse.

Allen Yee, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine in the VCU School of Medicine and the operational medical director for Chesterfield County Fire and EMS, has innovated the way his emergency teams respond to opioid overdoses. Yee leads Chesterfield Fire and EMS’s Mobile Integrated Healthcare unit; a team of four paramedics who connect overdose patients to peer counselors based on referrals from public health and safety workers in the field.

Gopi Jadhav, M.D., an internal medicine specialist and a member of VCU’s Board of Visitors, has practiced medicine for 45 years and has served on the VCU Health System Authority Board.