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Shepherd receives $130K grant to launch PBM Center of Excellence

ISSUED: 10 February 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The Shepherd University Foundation has received a $130,000 grant from the Foundation for Photobiomodulation Research to help the School of Nursing develop the Shepherd University PBM Center of Excellence. This first donation is part of a larger grant totaling $470,000 over the next three years to support the program, which will include curriculum development and equipment purchases.

In photobiomodulation therapy, a practitioner applies low-level lasers or light-emitting diodes to the surface of the body to improve tissue repair and reduce pain and inflammation. PBM is seen as a way to treat some pain-causing medical conditions instead of using opioids.

“We are very grateful to the key donors and the Foundation for Photobiomodulation Research for supporting a photobiomodulation education and training center at Shepherd University in the School of Nursing,” said Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, Shepherd president. “This technology holds great promise in managing pain as a viable alternative to opioid use. The PBM Center of Excellence will serve as a hub for training the next generation of practitioners addressing the opioid crisis.”

Dr. Sharon Mailey, dean of the College of Nursing, Education, and Health Sciences, and director of the School of Nursing, said the funds for the first year will be used to purchase equipment and hire a director, faculty, and an instructional design team to develop online curriculum for training.

“I’m thrilled the School of Nursing received this grant that allows us to establish the center,” Mailey said. “Providing PBM as an alternative or complimentary method to treat pain and wound healing will equip our advanced practitioners with tools to better serve our most vulnerable populations in rural West Virginia.”

Mailey said utilizing photobiomodulation will allow the medical community to face the opioid epidemic head on.

“PBM therapy provides options for care that, up to this point, has only been treated with pills that frequently lead to addiction and loss of life and/or family crisis,” Mailey said. “With the establishment of the PBM Center of Excellence, we can develop and implement provider training in PBM and research initiatives. This is a day of celebration for our School of Nursing, Shepherd University, and our community.”

The Foundation for Photobiomodulation Research was established to help develop and maintain relevant and robust research in the role light therapy plays in health and healthcare. Shepherd has partnered with the foundation to promote PBM as a preferred treatment in wound care, healing, and pain relief. Shepherd has also established relationships with leading research scientists in the field who serve as adjunct research professors at the university. Dr. Donald E. Pathoff, Jr., a Martinsburg dentist who uses PBM in his practice, presented the grant on behalf of the PBM foundation.

“In Star Trek, when someone was hurt or sick, they would get better almost instantly with laser light,” Pathoff said. “That was science fiction, but the idea that light can do that is well known. Much is already known in plants through such things as photosynthesis. What is just beginning to be explored is how animals photosynthesize. The Foundation for PBM Research was founded so those who are aware and skilled in this area of science can begin to better coordinate and fund the needed research in this new field.”

Another Martinsburg physician who has used photobiomodulation in his practice, Dr. Robert Bowen, is also involved with the Foundation for Photobiomodulation Research and is an adjunct research professor at Shepherd. Bowen and Pathoff believe Shepherd is an ideal location to further the study and use of PBM because the facilities and expertise needed are nearby, including the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center, WVU Hospitals East, and Mountaineer Recovery Center.

“The Foundation for Photobiomodulation Research and its advisors have explored many locations to establish a physical location where industry, academia, clinicians, and governmental agencies can come together to create a sustainable and robust center,” Bowen said. “Fortunately, Dr. Hendrix and Dr. Praveen Arany, one of the key basic science and clinical researchers in PBM and an adjunct research professor at Shepherd, share this interest.”

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