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SOM student Kurt Schultz receives AΩA research fellowship

Fellowship research will entail studying opioid prescribing patterns after surgery

By Kylee Denesha

UMass Medical School Communications

June 30, 2020
 
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Kurt Schultz

Kurt Schultz, SOM ’21, was recently awarded the 2020 AΩA Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship. The fellowship’s purpose is to foster the development of the next generation of medical researchers.

Upon notice of the award, Schultz received $2,500 to support him during his research period. An additional $2,500 will be paid after the receipt and approval of the final research report.

“This past year, I did research in the Surgical Outcomes Analysis and Research Lab at Boston Medical Center,” he said. “Now in my final year of medical school, my goal is to evaluate the discharge opioid prescribing patterns after colorectal surgery. For my fellowship period, I’m looking to dive deeper into this concept of over-prescription with the aim of reducing the number of excess opioids in our communities.”

Schultz hypothesizes that a large proportion of colorectal surgery patients who do not require opioids in the last 24 hours of their hospital stay are being discharged with prescriptions. He said a targeted intervention in an academic colorectal department may decrease the rates of opioid overprescribing among surgery patients.

“The opioid epidemic remains prevalent in the United States. Hundreds of people die each week due to overdoses,” Schultz said. “We intend to look at the type of opioids and the number of pills prescribed to Boston Medical Center patients after their procedure. We’ll also look to see if patients are refilling prescriptions more than 30 days after the procedure to try to identify persistent use.”

The study will be twofold, including a retrospective and prospective analysis, supported by two faculty mentors in the Division of Colorectal Surgery at Boston Medical Center, Uma Phatak, MD, and Joanne Favuzza, DO.

Schultz graduated from UMass Amherst in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. He participated in the Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons) program, earning him the first UMass Amherst College of Natural Sciences Mahoney Alumni Award in 2018.

He said his passion for people and the sciences is what drew him to practice medicine.

“When I recognize someone in distress, I find that I want to move toward that person and help them. It comes very naturally for me,” he said. “UMMS is a leader in the state when it comes to sciences, in addition to its attention to mindfulness. I was very drawn to enroll here and continue as a public servant to the commonwealth.”

Schultz said he is working on a second study in the Surgical Outcomes Analysis and Research Lab at Boston Medical Center, hoping to expose the relationship between the neoadjuvant-to-surgery time interval and overall survival for gastric cancer patients.

"With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in delays in cancer surgery treatment, there is a need to determine how long curative surgery can be postponed without affecting outcomes,” he said. “As many curative operations have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope our study will be helpful in counseling physicians and patients on how to best navigate treatment for our patients with gastric cancer."