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American Pain Society bestows prestigious award on pain researcher

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Published: 12 May 2010

Dr. Gary J. Bennett honoured for outstanding educational achievements in pain research and treatment

Dr. Gary J. Bennett honoured for outstanding educational achievements in pain research and treatment

Twenty years ago, as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, Gary J. Bennett was studying mechanisms that cause neuropathic pain - chronic pain resulting from nerve damage caused by trauma, disease, toxins or metabolic disease. This kind of pain does not respond to the usual pain medications and leads to great and prolonged suffering.

But in what can only be described as a serendipitous moment, Bennett inadvertently discovered how to produce a neuropathic pain state in an animal for the very first time. This blew the field of neuropathic pain research wide open for fellow scientists and drug-makers. Twenty years later, as a result, neuropathic pain is better understood, a number of promising new analgesic drugs exist and new discoveries are being made constantly.

All thanks to the Bennett Model.

Last week, the American Pain Society (APS) announced that Bennett, now a McGill University Professor and Canada Senior Research Chair in the Dept. of Anesthesia, the Faculty of Dentistry and the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain, was among six winners of its prestigious annual achievement awards. Dr. Bennett was the recipient of the APS's Elizabeth Narcessian Award in recognition of his outstanding educational achievements in pain research and treatment.

"The APS is a rather unusual organization in its diverse membership of basic scientists, clinical scientists, caregivers, healthcare professionals, industry representatives, patients and patients' self-help groups. One of its goals is to facilitate communication between these diverse groups," Bennett said. "I've always tried to talk to people in a way that everybody could understand, translating clinical findings into terms that the basic scientists found interesting or talking about basic science and making it intelligible to a lay audience. So, I was very gratified by this award. It's something that I've worked hard at for a long time, I've always thought it was important and the Society either thought I was good at it, or at least very persistent at it."

Dr. Bennett, whose career in pain research has spanned three decades, has served on the American Pain Society's Board of Directors and on the Editorial Board for Pain (1986-1999), the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, and currently serves on the Editorial Board for Pain Medicine, the journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association of America, where he was Director of Research, and received their Scientific Achievement Award in 2000. He was awarded the American Pain Society's Frederick W.L. Kerr Basic Science Research Award in 1996 and the American Academy of Pain Medicine's Founder's Award in 2001. Dr. Bennett joined McGill in 2001.

Based in Glenview, Ill., the APS is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering. The Board of Directors includes physicians, nurses, psychologists, basic scientists, pharmacists, policy analysts and more.

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