International Collaboration Award Progress Update: SKIP

International Collaboration Award Progress Update:
with Dr. Christine Chambers and Solutions for Kids in Pain (SKIP)


By: Melissa Pielech, PhD Assistant Professor, of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Center for Alcohol and Addictions Studies, Brown University


I’m so excited to share with you updates from my work with Dr. Christine Chambers and the Solutions for Kids in Pain (SKIP) team in Canada, funded by the Society of Pediatric Psychology’s (SPP) International Collaboration Award. I applied for SPP’s International Collaboration Award to get hands on experience utilizing implementation science and knowledge mobilization methods to improve pediatric pain care, in line with my longer term goal of facilitating the uptake of integrated pain and substance use treatment for youth. At the time, I had been admiring from afar how SKIP was transforming pediatric pain care in Canada through skillful coordination, collaboration, and communication about evidence-based pediatric pain management. Thus, asking Dr. Christine Chambers (Scientific Director of Solutions for Kids in Pain, Scientific Director for the Institute of Human Development, Child & Youth Health Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Children's Pain & Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience and Pediatrics, Dalhousie University) to be my primary mentor and collaborator on the application was an easy decision and I am still grateful that she was enthusiastic about the potential collaboration, as well. I specifically approached Dr. Chambers about being involved in SKIP’s initiatives to promote safe opioid prescribing practices to youth in Canada, hoping that my expertise in pediatric and opioid and substance use could be of benefit to their team, and, concurrently, I could gain valuable experience with large-scale dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices for pediatric pain management.

I received SPP’s International Collaboration Award in the Fall of 2019, shortly after starting my post-doctoral research fellowship at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. An incredible bonus of working with Dr. Chambers and the SKIP community was the opportunity to also get to know and work with many other amazing pediatric pain researchers and advocates including: Dr. Katie Birnie (Associate Scientific Director of SKIP), Dr. Samina Ali (Pediatric Emergency Physician at Stollery Children’s Hospital and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta), Dr. Elise Kammerer (SKIP Knowledge Broker), and Erin Aubrey (SKIP Strategic Lead).

Receipt of the award allowed me to participate in planning and attending the “Opioids and Our Kids Scoping Meeting” co-hosted by SKIP and the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) in Ottawa, Ontario. This meeting sought to bring together stakeholders from dozens of Canadian organizations (family partners, Canadian Pain Task Force, Children’s Healthcare Canada, Canadian Dental Regulatory Authorities Federation… just to name a few!) with the shared goals of discussing priorities and current activities happening to improve the safety and effectiveness of opioid prescribing for acute pain management in kids. Leading up to the event, I learned about what goes into organizing and facilitating a large scale interdisciplinary scoping meeting. I also worked with Drs. Ali and Kammerer in conducting a literature search on opioid prescribing practices for pediatric pain. We compiled key scientific findings from the literature into an “executive summary,” using language that was succinct and accessible to families and stakeholders attending the meeting.

After months of planning, the scoping meeting happened in February 2020 on a very snowy day in Ottawa. It was particularly interesting to observe the differing goals of various stakeholders and helpful for me to learn how to structure a meeting to address the needs of a diverse audience. I walked away from this meeting bubbling with new research questions and study ideas, driven by stakeholder identified needs, related to improving pain management practices in pediatric dental settings. This clinical research area became the focus of my (funded) NIH K23 Career Development Award submission, with Dr. Chambers involved as a K23 Co-mentor. Thus far I have I applied skills learned from SKIP to conduct a practice and needs assessment with pediatric dentists on utilization of and attitudes towards evidence-based pain management practices and I am currently conducting interviews with stakeholders (teens, parents, and dental providers) to inform intervention development.

Given that the scoping meeting happened at the end of the February 2020, it is, unfortunately, quite predictable what came next: the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic and ongoing travel restrictions prohibited me from engaging in the two-week long visit to Dr Chamber’s lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada that I had proposed. Fortunately, however, SKIP was far ahead of the curve in facilitating remote collaboration, so my training experience continued. Other highlights of work from this collaboration included co-leading a virtual “Ask-me-anything” event with Dr. Ali titled “Opioids, Pain, and Teens: Minimizing Risks, Maximizing Benefits.” Relatedly, I presented a symposium at the 2022 International Symposium on Pediatric Pain titled Knowledge Mobilization to Elevate Pediatric Pain Management Practices: Processes, Methods, and Applications, which was a phenomenal opportunity to teach others about what I learned from SKIP and my post-doctoral training in implementation science.

I want to sincerely thank the SPP International Committee for awarding me this opportunity, and especially thank Dr. Chambers, Dr. Birnie, SKIP, CFHI, and stakeholders at the “Opioids and Our Kids Scoping Meeting” for leaving a lasting impression on my professional development. I will use what I’ve learned from this experience to inform my efforts to increase access to evidenced-based pain and substance use interventions for youth in years to come.