White House’s Director of the Office on National Drug Control Policy sees educating medical students as critical in dealing with addiction
WV Press Staff Report
LEWISBURG, W.Va. — There is an important reason West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine President James Nemitz received a Presidential Challenge Coin for his efforts on substance use disorder education, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“It’s really critical that the students of the future .. that are going to be doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists … they understand the importance of addiction. … If we do that, we save lives,” Gupta said.
West Virginia lost more than 1,400 to drug overdoses last year and the number of deaths in America was over 100,000, according to Dr. Gupta.
Dr. Gupta said President Nemitz was selected to receive the coin, “For his vision and medical school’s work in substance use disorder education.”
With nearly 800 medical students – the most medical students in the state — and a focus on primary care and rural medicine, Gupta said WVSOM is working with real communities, real people, and on how to solve problems. He explained that substance use disorder is a worldwide problem, and WVSOM is preparing students to work in communities in West Virginia, across the country and around the world.
Dr. Gupta discussed President Biden’s commitment to saving lives and beating the opioid crisis, including the surge against illicit fentanyl the President announced in the State of the Union. Gupta also discussed the Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy and the many steps the Administration has already taken to expand access to care for substance use disorder, reduce the supply of illicit drugs like fentanyl, and get states across the country the resources they need to respond to the crisis.
Pointing out that addiction leads to criminal convictions, Dr. Gupta noted many states, though not West Virginia, are issuing pardons for marijuana convictions. Addiction and the related criminal burden, Gupta said, negatively impacts the person, the family, the community, the state and the nation.
Saturday’s roundtable session also included 16 students currently attending WVSOM. At the conclusion of the session, the students had the opportunity to interact with Gupta, Nemitz, and all other roundtable-participants.
Among the medical students was Sierra Wright of Parkersburg, who said she enjoyed the program and was glad to learn about all of the substance use disorder programs in West Virginia and the national commitment to fight the problem.
Other students in attendance included Teresa Lonce from Maryland and Jackie Buttafuoco, originally from the Chicago area.