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After serving as a Navy corpsman during the Vietnam era, Dan Sumrok, MD, DFASAM, ABAM, ABPM, published an article in the West Virginia Medical Journal on what he perceived as a connection between combat experience and physical and behavioral health problems: “Suicide; child and spouse abuse; jail terms; and, psychiatric and physical maladies are the public health legacy of the Vietnam War.” Years later, a team of researchers at Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would publish the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, which demonstrated a relationship between experiencing trauma and poor health later in life. Though Dr. Sumrok admits his original definition of trauma was limited — taking into account only trauma experienced during combat — his interest in trauma-informed principles was apparent from early in his career.
In addition to treating patients, Dr. Sumrok dedicates his time to train medical students at the University of Tennessee’s Health Science Center’s (UTHSC) College of Medicine to ensure a new generation of addiction medicine providers understand the value of a trauma-informed approach to care. Every student learns the CDC’s prescribing guidelines for opioids for chronic pain, as well as the rudiments of addiction medicine. UTHSC also offers one of the nation’s small — but growing — number of fellowships dedicated to addiction medicine.