Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2017

THOMAS REZNIK, M.D., MPH ’01 Thom Reznik ’01 has a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins, a medical degree from the University of Maryland, and a specialty that marries both felds: primary care internal medicine. After earning his Biology degree at Mercyhurst, Thom began his career as a research assistant and earned his MPH in 2006 while working on campus. He continued on to the University of Maryland to complete his M.D. in 2010. Thom completed his internal medicine residency at Brown University. With an eye toward broadening his impact, Thom stayed in Rhode Island to work in primary care for the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Providence. This ofered opportunities to blend his passion for patient care with broader interests in public health. “I like building relationships and taking care of people one on one,” he explains. “But public health is a feld that can make a diference on an enormous level. Public health can afect thousands or millions of people.” Thom immersed himself in the VA patient culture and immediately recognized the burden of chronic pain and overreliance on pain medication for treatment. Though the opioid epidemic hadn’t yet become well-known, the VA was evaluating and reforming pain treatment and prescription practices. Thom’s dedication and background led him to be named co-chair of the hospital pain committee, Primary Care Pain Champion and the Providence representative in opioid safety and pain management within the New England VA Health Care System. Leading pain initiatives now flls as much as half of Thom’s time. He developed and launched an Interdisciplinary Pain Clinic in which primary care internists, acupuncturists, pharmacists, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, and nurses all meet to listen to a patient’s pain story. This collaborative approach ofers patients a personalized comprehensive plan. Thom also became a Medical Acupuncturist last year and opened the Providence VA’s frst acupuncture clinic. Thom notes the VA has deployed a primary-care-based acupuncture procedure called “battlefeld acupuncture”—which places fve needles in each ear to control pain—as another tool available for pain treatment. “In the early 1990s, physicians became very aggressive in using opioids to treat pain,” he notes. “Today the pendulum has swung too far the other way suggesting opioids have no place in chronic pain management. My experience in primary care has shown that patients live somewhere in the middle, where things aren’t so black and white.” Beyond the VA, Thom lends his experience to Rhode Island state initiatives, including the Department of Health’s work to improve primary-care-based pain management and as part of the Rhode Island Governor’s Opioid Overdose Task Force. “The VA is at the forefront of rewriting the playbook for chronic pain management by focusing on the complex causes of chronic pain and partnering with veterans on what works for them, relying less on medications and procedures.” “We’re flling a gap, and I hope it will grow so we can change things for as many people as we can,” he says. 7

ANNIE DEMEO REZNIK ’02 Annie DeMeo grew up on college campuses, including Mercyhurst where her dad, Tony, started the football program. When she visited Mercyhurst in April of her senior year, it felt like home though it had been years since her family moved from Erie. Now, as the frst executive director of the Coalition for Access, Afordability, and Success, Annie is working with a group of the country’s leading colleges and universities encouraging lower- income, frst-generation, and other under-served students to aim for college. The coalition’s members serve students from low-income backgrounds, ofer responsible fnancial aid packages, and ensure positive graduation outcomes for students from all backgrounds. “Through the coalition, colleges are working together to eliminate barriers to college for lower-income and frst-generation college students in an unprecedented manner,” Annie explains. The coalition ofers free college-planning tools, including a private online storage space for students to begin assembling materials they’ll need as they apply to college. “The colleges developed resources for students who don’t have support. The tools are for students like my husband, or father, and many of my college friends, who were the frst in their family to go to college,” says Annie. An English major and Religious Studies minor, she credits mentors like Dr. Heidi Hosey and Dr. David Livingston for teaching her how to think through complicated ideas and analyze problems from many diferent angles—skills she uses daily at the helm of a brand-new organization. Annie says she can’t imagine a place where she could have become as immersed in the community as she was at Mercyhurst. She was an Ambassador, Merciad editor, student government ofcer, and a lead student fundraiser for the annual phone-a-thon. At graduation, she was honored with the Sister Carolyn Herrmann Service Award, celebrating Annie “selfessly giving her time, energy, loyalty and talent to the campus community.” Annie is once again giving her time, energy, loyalty and talent, only this time to the many college communities of the coalition. Annie and Thom Reznik were married in 2004 and have four children: Caroline, 10; Anthony, 8; Catherine, 4; and Grace, 3. (Read Thom’s story at right.)

Learn more about the coalition at .

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