Article contributed by Shawn Lee Ji Kwan

Having the opportunity to experience the IASP Pain Management Camp 2013 first-hand was really fantastic, and there were just too many great things about the program; I don’t know where to start! I was deeply impressed by how well thought-out the program was, and I can only imagine the amount of effort the organizers must have put in. There were 12 faculty members and 27 of us (delegates) in the program. We had a good mix of people from different cultural backgrounds and professions. All of us came from different parts of South-East Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The majority of the delegates were medical practitioners with different specialties. We also had three nurses, two psychologists, a dentist, and a pharmacist.

The course structure provided good coverage of the whole subject of Pain Management in a contextually relevant manner, and the lectures given by the faculty members were informative and interesting. As a clinical psychologist, I find that the lectures pertaining to the Biopsychosocial Model of Pain as well as the Psychological Management of Pain given by Prof. Lance McCracken and Dr. Zubaidah Jamil Osman were the most beneficial. Although he himself said that his was a boring topic, Prof. Troels Jensen’s lecture on Pain Pathways and Mechanisms was absolutely fun!

Of all the lectures, I was most inspired by Dr. M.R. Rajagopal’s lecture on Cancer Pain. Dr. Rajagopal began his talk by showing us a photo of a patient who had been staying in a crouching position and had been unable to get up for three weeks due to severe cancer pain.  Eventually, the patient was able to enjoy his first cup of tea in three weeks after taking six cents worth of morphine. Dr. Rajagopal reminded us that there are people out there suffering from pain needlessly, and one tablet can actually make a difference! So here’s a question that I asked myself: “For someone who has no right to prescribe that one magical pill, what would I have done for the patient?” A quick search using keywords such as “psychological treatment” and “cancer pain” in any academic search engine would most certainly reveal a substantial amount of references to answer my question. However, the reality is that the application of psychological techniques for pain management in my country is very much limited to the chronic non-malignant type at this point. I believe that psychology has much more to offer, and I pledge to expand the realm of psychology in field of pain management in Malaysia.

Every conversation I had with my fellow delegates as well as the faculty members was insightful. Listening to their stories and experiences with patients in pain makes me be even more convinced of the importance of good multidisciplinary pain management. Our discussions helped me understand the gaps that need to be addressed to improve the quality of pain management in my country, and it is because of this experience that I realize I, too, have a role to play.

Apparently, my soul was not the only thing being fed during the Pain Camp. The Pain Association of Singapore has definitely showed us the meaning of hospitality by making sure that we lost count of our calorie intake! Every dinner was planned with the intention of giving us a different taste of Asia.

Finally, the most meaningful aspect of the program to me was witnessing dedicated people from the developed countries showing their interest and concern for people from my part of the world. I hope that the IASP Pain Management Camp can continue to be carried out, and I sure hope that there are more to come.