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St. Joseph’s opens pain clinic

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St. Joseph's Mercy Health Center

Study prompts St. Joseph’s to open Mission Pain Medicine Consultants clinic

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – In response to a “physician needs” study that identified a significant demand for pain management services, St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center recently opened the Mission Pain Medicine Consultants clinic.

The clinic is conveniently located next to St. Joseph’s in Suite 106 of the Medical Office Building and features a staff of five, including Medical Director Ronald E. Harbut, M.D., Ph.D., who is board certified in both anesthesiology and pain medicine. Dr. Harbut, who most recently served as both an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine and Director of the Neuropathic Pain Treatment Program at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center (Hershey, Pennsylvania), secured his fellowship training in pain medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Dr. Harbut earned his doctorate degree in pharmacology from the University of Utah, medical degree from the University of Health Sciences-Chicago Medical School and bachelor’s of science degree in pharmacy from the University of Arizona.

“We are extremely excited to have a physician of Dr. Harbut’s stature in the position of Medical Director at the new Mission Pain Medical Consultants clinic,” said St. Joseph’s Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Mark Larey, D.O. “Through the interview process, he demonstrated a demeanor that is consistent with the mission, vision and values of our organization.

“Dr. Harbut also brought with him a treatment for an often very resistant pain disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). We are pleased to be able to offer such a unique service to the residents of the Hot Springs area.”

Dr. Harbut is equally impressed with St. Joseph’s and its co-workers.

“I was looking for an opportunity to improve my career and I had been longing to work in a facility that was faith based,” said Dr. Harbut, who along with his wife of 10 years, Karen, has a three-year-old daughter named Megan. “Having interviewed at various places for positions, I was most impressed with the values and enthusiasm of the people I met here. Everyone is genuine, warm, caring and sincere, and that really drew me to St. Joseph’s.

“I started working on this new treatment for neuropathic pain in 2001 when I was at the Mayo Clinic. I worked closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in obtaining an approved protocol. We had some interesting initial results that helped guide the direction we needed to go with our work. Our work has continued since then regarding its application in the treatment of CRPS (also known as RSD) and other central –sensitization disorders.”

The first peer-reviewed article on the use of this technique in the United States – regarding the treatment of CRPS or RSD – was written by Dr. Harbut and appeared as a case report in the June of 2002 Pain Medicine, the journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. A follow-up paper appeared in Pain Medicine in September of 2004.

“What is exciting about the possibilities of using the technique is that it does not require that a patient become unconscious,” Dr. Harbut said. “The technique uses a low-dose, sub-anesthetic continuous infusion of ketamine, which allows the patient to remain awake where he or she can interact with the staff. We have seen some good results with it in treating CRPS. It has helped over 50 percent of the folks I treated at Penn State.

“I’ve also been working on conducting a study using a newer protocol and this was just recently approved by the FDA. My hope is to start the study here after final approval from the hospital’s Investigational Review Board (IRB).”

The highly-qualified staff of the Mission Pain Medicine Consultants clinic will eventually devote about one third of its time to the CRPS research protocol study and non-research-related CRPS treatment program. The healthcare professionals’ remaining time will be spent on physician-referred patients – both outpatient and inpatient – with chronic pain. In addition to Dr. Harbut, the clinic staff is made up of Sylvia Phillips, RN, BSN, clinical supervisor; Renee Fazendine, office manager; Nina Morgan, LPN II, clinic nurse; and Julia Brown, receptionist.

“Sylvia has a strong interest in pain medicine, health education and clinical research,” Dr. Harbut said. “She has over 21 years of experience in patient care and teaching at St. Joseph’s and is a vital member of our team. The staff is also highly complemented by the talents and experience of Renee, Nina and Julia.”

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