How do pain research education and policy pertain to public health?

Pain is a public health issue, and pain education is a public health imperative. White papers on pain by multiple governmental and professional groups document the wide prevalence of pain. Its undertreatment exacts a major economic and human burden in developed nations and even more so in resource-poor countries. Other concepts linking pain and public health include the importance of prevention or early intervention to keep acute pain from becoming chronic, the importance of optimal pain control for patient-centered care, disparities in pain assessment and treatment experienced by minorities and other under-represented groups such as women or those at the extremes of age, and the need “to adopt a population-level prevention and management strategy” (US Institute of Medicine, 2011).  Related to all these is the growing perspective that pain control is a fundamental human right. The Tufts Public Health Pain program uses the paradigms of research, education and policy to examine how different types of pain can be more effectively prevented, treated and managed at the population, healthcare system and individual levels, to benefit the public’s health.

What would my course of study look like if I pursue my education with PREP?

The Certificate of Advanced Studies in Pain Topics consists of 5 credits (please note that Tufts utilizes a “unitary credit” system, where 1 typical semester long course = 3 hours/week class time for 14 weeks = 1 credit and a 7 week, half-semester course = 0.5 credits).  Certificates can be pursued with a focus on research, education, or policy; in addition, a combined program with Tufts University Graduate Program in Occupational Therapy leads to a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Pain Topics in Occupational Therapy.  Students can complete the Certificate as part-time or full-time students.  Click here to view an example of how the courses might be taken in each of the Certificate tracks.

The Masters of Science in Pain Research, Education and Policy (MS-PREP) consists of 11 credits.  In addition, Tufts and the New England School of Acupuncture have joined together to offer a combined Masters of Science in Pain Research, Education and Policy from Tufts and a Masters of Acupuncture (or Masters of Oriental Medicine) from the New England School of Acupuncture.  Click here to view further information on the Masters of Science in Pain Research Education and Policy. Click here to view further information on the Combined Masters with the New England School of Acupuncture

What are the career opportunities available?

The MS in Pain Research, Education and Policy was created in 1999 to enhance the limited training of health care professionals caring for individuals suffering from chronic pain. True to this mission, many of our graduates have used their MS-PREP degree and Certificate to accelerate the trajectory of their original career paths. Pharmacists, physicians, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, dentists, acupuncturists and other clinicians have taken advantage of the additional expertise imparted through our MS program to assume more responsibility in their clinical organizations, take on new leadership positions, or improve their prospects in a competitive health care job market. Other graduates have leveraged their degree or certificate to move into new career paths such as pain education, program administration, research and advocacy work. And still other graduates have used their masters as a stepping-stone to other terminal degrees such as medicine or public health.

Today, PREP MS graduates and certificate awardees apply their education in clinical, research, education, policy and business roles.  Our graduates may be found in clinical practice (outpatient, hospital, rehabilitation, long term care, and hospice); health care education (professional schools and college); public and private research entities; philanthropies; non-profit advocacy organizations; government agencies; insurance companies; and the pharmaceutical industry.

What courses will I need to take?

Students seeking a Certificate of Advanced in Pain Topics take two foundational courses. The first is “Neuroscience of Pain: From Society to Synapse”, and the second is “Introduction to Clinical Pain Problems”; both are offered in a blended or hybrid format that combines face-to-face, onsite learning with distance learning via the Internet.  All Certificate students then take another two PREP courses, the specific choice of which reflects their chosen Certificate pathway.  Students then complete the Certificate with an additional two credits of approved electives. Click here to review the Certificate pathways and the specific courses required.

The Masters of Science in Pain Research, Education and Policy requires 8.5 credits. Required courses include the Neuroscience of Pain, Introduction to Clinical Pain Problems, Ethical and Sociocultural Aspects of Pain, Psychological Approaches to the Evaluation and Treatment of Pain, Epidemiology-Biostatics: Reading & Interpreting the Medical Literature, Palliative Care and End-of-Life Issues, Education and Change in Pain Management, Public Policy, and Complementary Medicine.  Students who have not had training in one of the health professions (nursing, medicine, pharmacy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, dentistry and others) will also take the Introduction to Medicine course.  Students fulfill their remaining credits from a wide range of elective courses offered throughout different schools of Tufts University and affiliated Boston-area universities. Click here to view the Masters of Science in Pain Research Education and Policy curriculum and course descriptions. 

Students in the Combined Masters Program earn an MS in Pain Research, Education and Policy at Tufts and a Masters of Acupuncture (or Masters of Arts of Oriental Medicine) at the New England School of Acupuncture. Eight required credits include courses in Neuroscience of Pain, Introduction to Pain Problems, Ethical and Sociocultural Aspects of Pain, Psychological Approaches; Epidemiology-Biostatics: Reading & Interpreting the Medical Literature, Palliative Care and End-of-Life Issues, Education and Change in Pain Management, Public Policy, and Medical Acupuncture. Students have an additional 1 credit for electives.  Click here to view Combined Masters of Science in Pain Research Education and Policy curriculum and course descriptions.

What are the tuition costs?

Students pay per credit for the Certificate (5 credits), PREP Masters of Science (11 credits) and Tufts-NESA Combined Degree (8.5 credits). Click here for tuition information.

How do I apply?

Information about how to apply for the masters and certificate programs is available here. Up to two courses may be taken as a non-degree student; in that instance, course credit is not awarded

What is the Capstone Project?

All students in the MS-PREP program (but not the Certificate programs) are required to complete a two-semester Capstone Project prior to graduation. The Capstone Project offers students the opportunity to integrate and apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom to comprehensively address a clinical, public health and/or social problem pertaining to pain. The Capstone Project is scheduled in two consecutive semesters during the final year of the program. Click here to see some recent Capstone Projects by our MS-PREP students.

Does the program require an internship?

No, but our Capstone Project in the final semesters of the masters degree provides a similar function to many internships, and other individual initiatives for development of expertise in pain issues.

Do students attend the program part-time?

Yes, most students are taking the program part-time. For the convenience of learners enrolled in the program, most classes are scheduled in the late afternoon or early evening. Typically, classes that are offered in a blended, hybrid format commence with an intensive face-to-face session over 1-2 weekend days, followed by online learning.

What is the mix of students in the program?

The PREP program enjoys a broad-based, interprofessional student body. Students range from seasoned clinicians in the healthcare professions, to students pursing graduate education after recently completing their bachelor’s program. Our students are mostly studying part-time, with a few attending full-time; international students are welcomed and form an integral part of our programs. Our classes offer a rich environment for engaging, graduate-level learning and developing subject matter excellence in pain issues.

Does Tufts offer a distance learning degree?

At this time, it is not possible to complete the PREP degree online; however, ever-increasing numbers of courses in the program utilize a hybrid, blended learning mode. Most of the courses we offer in this model have students come to the Tufts campus for an extended weekend once a semester for an onsite course (or courses). The onsite weekend is then followed by asynchronous online learning or synchronous videoconferencing sessions.

Does the program provide job counseling and help finding a job?

Yes. We have excellent career services. Check here for more information.

What are some of the research interests of faculty?
  • Evidence Based Pain Medicine
  • Analgesic Pharmacotherapy
  • Complementary and integrative therapies for pain management
  • Neuropathic pain scales
  • Functional brain imaging of pain
  • Neuro-physiological testing for chronic pain
  • Development of novel analgesic medications
  • Assessment of pain-related outcomes and evidence
  • Pain education
May I visit the campus?

Yes. We'd welcome your visit! Please check here for more information on visiting campus.

May I sit in on classes?

Yes, with advanced planning. Contact us and we will be happy to arrange it.

May I talk to current students or graduates?

Yes, our students would be happy to share insights with you. Contact us and we will make a student available to you.

Where can I get more information?

For information about the program contact: Libby Bradshaw, DO, MS, PREP Academic Director, at libby.bradshaw@tufts.edu.