Chronic pain destroys lives, burdens our healthcare system and engenders needless suffering for patients and their families. Few know this better than James Slattery, founder and CEO of the San Diego-based Millennium Laboratories, Inc., which provides urine drug-testing resources for physicians and medical staff focused on treating chronic pain.

“My wife and sister are career hospice nurses, and I was a hospice volunteer,” he explains. “Over a 40-year period of time, we witnessed serious suffering in the end-of-life scenario — suffering that really wasn’t necessary.”

Inspired by the vision and skills of Alex Cahana, M.D., DAAPM, FIPP, UW professor in the Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, chief of the Division of Pain Medicine, and holder of the Hughes M. and Katherine G. Blake Endowed Professorship in Health Psychology, Millennium has made a significant pledge to UW Medicine’s revolutionary work in understanding and treating chronic pain.

“I had the opportunity to hear Alex speak at a conference, and I was just fascinated by his ability to think out of the box and take the treatment of pain into a results-oriented process,” Slattery says. “I think he is going to make a huge difference in the pain field.”

Cahana has chosen to use Millennium’s non-conditional gift primarily to launch the Center for Pain Research on Impact, Measurement and Effectiveness (C-PRIME), directed by Dennis C. Turk, Ph.D., UW professor of medicine in the Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, and the John and Emma Bonica Endowed Chair in Anesthesiology and Pain Research. C-PRIME will conduct data-driven research comparing the effectiveness of different treatments to better inform clinical-care decisions, educational approaches and social policy related to the treatment of chronic pain. A major C-PRIME initiative that will be funded by Millennium’s gift is the development and implementation of a National Pain Registry that charts the progress of patients with persistent pain and their response to treatment alternatives.

“I’m very excited about the work that C-PRIME is doing,” says Slattery. “Pain is the only discipline where doctors have no standardized procedures or tests. There’s no understanding of how to make educated decisions on the treatment of pain by actually tracking results.”

Millennium’s contribution will be crucial in tying pain care to measurable results, says Cahana. Turk agrees. “It is only through appropriately designed outcomes research that evidence-based healthcare can be realized and patient suffering alleviated,” says Turk.

In addition to helping pain care evolve, Millennium’s gift also may help reduce its cost. “Most of what helps people with chronic pain is not paid for by typical insurance plans,” says David Tauben, M.D., Res. ’82, UW clinical associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine and the Department of Medicine, and director of medical student education in pain medicine. “Donors like Millennium are allowing us to do research that will enable us to turn the equation around and be much more cost-effective and clinically useful when providing pain care.”

“I think pain doctors are heroes,” says Slattery. “People in pain can be the hardest patients in the world. And most of the pain doctors I’ve met have real compassion for their clients, and they’re frustrated because they want to do more. All I’m trying to do is figure out some ways to alleviate suffering.”