Johnathan Goree, M.D., Named Arkansas Physician of the Year by Arkansas Business

By Amy Widner

The annual awards event was held virtually on YouTube because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In presenting the awards, Arkansas Business Publisher and CEO Mitch Bettis said that nominations came in throughout the year from across the state. An independent panel of health care industry experts helped choose the winners from among the finalists.

“We know our health care providers are generally under a great deal of stress and expectations under normal situations, but with the COVID-19 issues facing us, their challenges have only increased,” Bettis said. “So there is no greater time to shine a light on the amazing work our health care providers do than now.”

Bettis said the finalists represent a spirit of innovation, bravery and selflessness.

The finalists from UAMS include:

Large Hospital of the Year (100 beds or more)

Innovation Hero

Physician of the Year

Allied Health Professional

The opioid crisis has drawn attention to issues that were previously ignored, patient populations that were underserved, and attitudes and practices that needed to change almost overnight – lives depended on it.

In response, some people doubled down, assigned blame, or turned a blind eye.

And then there’s Goree. He has used the national attention on opioids as an opportunity to make rapid change for better, using a combination of specialized training, leadership skills, and passion for his home state of Arkansas.

Since coming to UAMS in 2014, Goree has worked tirelessly through multiple channels both at UAMS and in the community to combat the opioid epidemic in Arkansas, which has one of the nation’s highest prescribing rates. While opioids are a necessary health intervention that provide a lot of benefit when used properly, over prescribing has caused harm and death.

“This is definitely an honor,” Goree said. “I’m lucky to work with the best team of doctors, nurses, radiologic techs and personnel in the state, if not the country.”

Goree said he is appreciative of the support from the Department of Anesthesiology and its leadership under Jill Mhyre, M.D., and Brooks Gentry, M.D., the leadership of  J.D. Day, M.D, and the support of Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, College of Medicine Dean Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., and UAMS Medical Center CEO Steppe Mette, M.D.

“Looking forward, I’m eager to continue our work to bring cutting edge pain care to the state and decrease the opioid over-prescription that increases illness and death in Arkansas.”

In addition to treating patients with innovative approaches to pain care, Goree has fought the opioid crisis on several fronts, such as administrative leadership, education, outreach and research.

He serves as chair of the UAMS Opioid Stewardship Committee, which works to provide safe and effective pain care at UAMS. The committee evaluates prescription patterns, provides education, promotes evidence-based treatments for chronic pain, and facilitates harm reduction and treatment for patients with substance use disorder.

Goree is the founder and course director of the Arkansas Pain Management Symposium, an annual conference designed to provide high-quality continuing education to an interprofessional audience to improve chronic pain treatment in the state. An average of 150 people attended each of the first two symposiums, including Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Kirk Lane, director of the Arkansas Drug Task Force.

He is also a member UAMS AR-Impact (Improving Multi-disciplinary Pain Care and Treatment), a program designed to educate health care professionals through free, live weekly teleconferences about solving tough pain management cases.

Goree is also contributing to the knowledge base for opioid education and best practice and has received two grants through the UAMS Translational Research Institute to help. With one grant, Goree is studying whether a short educational video will lead to a decrease in chronic opioid use after surgery. Patients watch a video around the time of their surgery that discusses risks, benefits, alternatives and safe disposal of opioids.

The second grant is through the Implementation Science Scholar Program. He is studying how to implement new practice guidelines, and more specifically, promote safe opioid prescribing through the post-surgical phase.

In addition, Goree is training the next generation of chronic pain specialists. He is fellowship director of the first accredited chronic pain physician training program in the state.