Beth Darnall, PhD is a clinical professor in Stanford University’s Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, and by courtesy, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She is principal investigator for more than $13 million in national pain and opioid reduction research projects.
One in three individuals worldwide is living with ongoing pain of some type, and pain is relevant to everyone during their lifetime.
Beth has been called a pioneer in her field for her innovations and research into how pain can be altered by people harnessing the power of their mind to shape the nervous system toward pain relief. That’s a concept that is powerful for patients.
Her evidence-based research opens up an empowering way for patients to best self-manage their pain. Beth is a valuable resource and trainer to other psychologists, physicians, and health care clinicians of various backgrounds, providing them with new treatments for their patients.
Her integrative approach works alongside medical treatments, such as pain medications and surgery, and has been shown to improve treatment outcomes.
Her NIH-funded work investigates targeted and brief pain psychology treatments she designed for chronic pain, such as her two-hour single-session pain class “Empowered Relief”. She developed “My Surgical Success”, a digital behavioral medicine platform for pain and opioid reduction that’s being studied as a flagship project at Stanford Health Care.
She also creates and investigates digital behavioral medicine for patients with chronic pain. These treatments are Internet-based, fully automated, and expand access to much-needed pain care. They are a low-cost treatment option for patients who may not have access to health care.
In 2018, her community-based, patient-centered opioid tapering research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, and she received a national research award. She is now leading a $9 million national study on safe and compassionate patient-centered prescription opioid tapering for patients who wish to reduce pain medications. This research is funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute and includes patient advisors at all levels of research, including designing the study, choosing the study outcomes, and in the implementation of the project.
Overall, Beth’s patient-centered work focuses on developing, investigating, and disseminating scalable and effective treatments to reduce pain and need for prescription opioids in patients for whom that is an achievable goal.
“I met with Beth for one hour when I went to Stanford for an evaluation. Even the little bit she told me about her methods in that hour, such as using cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and mindfulness principles, helped me be more comfortable on the flight home that afternoon. I felt as though I had something to do for myself and not only take medications. That was a very good feeling,” says Shelley Latin, a lawyer from Oregon who suffered from debilitating pain for six years before becoming a patient in the Pain Management Center at Stanford University Medical Center.