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Opioid Task Force

Opioid Task Force Announcement

Opioid Education & Training Student Survey

Current public health students invited to participate!

About the Opioid Task Force


The Texas A&M University Health Science Center Opioid Task Force was established January 2018. It has representatives from all five Health Science Center components (dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health) as well as the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center.


To improve the health and well-being of all Texans by reducing burdens from the current opioid epidemic through collaborative action across the health sciences.


The Texas A&M University Health Science Center Opioid Task Force serves as a focal point for research, education and practice issues critical to addressing the opioid epidemic and its impact on persons, families, communities and the health care system.

The Opioid Epidemic: By the numbers, 2017

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People died every day from opioid-related drug overdoses

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People died from overdosing
on opioids

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People had an opioid use disorder

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People misused prescription opioids

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In economic costs

Sources: 1. 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health / 2. Mortality in the United States, NCHS Data Brief No. 293, December 2017 / 3. CEA Report: The underestimated cost of the opioid crisis, 2017

The Goal

Diminish escalating negative impacts through collaborative action.

The Chair

Marcia G. Ory, PhD, MPH

School of Public Health

  • Public health and community engagement professional with expertise in opioid and aging issues
  • Implements and disseminates evidence-based programs for chronic disease and pain management in rural and underserved populations
  • Evaluates best practices for self-management programs
  • Builds bridges between clinical and community settings and populations
  • Surveys physicians and patients about perceptions of pain and opioid treatment and management

Task Force Members

Joy Alonzo, Pharm.D.

College of Pharmacy

  • Clinical pharmacist with experience in acute care, ambulatory care, long term care, managed care, community settings
  • Serves as preceptor/trainer for health professionals, students, community leaders engaged in opioid education and naloxone distribution

Michael Ellis, DDS

College of Dentistry

  • Dentist with specialization in pain and pain management
  • Supervises dental students and residents in clinical care and pain management of surgical patients and creates best practice dental curriculum about pain management

Starr Flores, MBA

Texas A&M Coastal Bend Education Center | Healthy South Texas

  • Health educator with special attention to building community and clinical partnerships for Healthy South Texas initiatives in a region with one of the largest number of people who died from opioid-related causes in Texas
  • Develops, implements and coordinates chronic disease self-management and opioid awareness programs for the Coastal Bend Health Education Center and oversees continuing education programs for multiple health professions

E. Paul Holder, PharmD

College of Pharmacy

  • Pharmacist with specialized expertise in federal and state pharmacy law and compounding
  • Provides guidance about pharmacy law related to enforcement, based on his prior leadership role with Texas State Board of Pharmacy

Carrie Johnson, DNP, RN, FNP-C

College of Nursing

  • Advanced practice nurse
  • Conducts research to improve patient outcomes

Mansoor Khan, PhD

College of Pharmacy

  • Pharmacist with expertise in abuse deterrent formulations
  • Provides guidance about aspects of abuse deterrent formulations and conducts research about formulations design and development

Carly McCord, PhD

College of Medicine

  • Clinical psychologist with expertise in promoting mental health
  • Develops remote telehealth programs for addressing mental health needs and engages in interprofessional education around mental health issues

Darlene McLaughlin, MD

College of Medicine

  • Clinical psychiatrist and co-clerkship director for third-year medical students
  • Teaches about substance use disorders as part of the general clinical psychiatry curriculum and promotes law enforcement best practices about opioid overdoses using Narcan with the Police Physicians Section for the International Association of Chiefs of Police

Ranjana Mehta, PhD, MS

School of Public Health

  • Industrial and systems engineer with interests in age-related conditions like falls and cognition
  • Develops sensor technology for identification, detection and pre diction of opioid-related changes in behavior and quality of life and conducts lab-based clinical assessments

Cheryl Pullium, DNP, MSN, ACNS-BC

College of Nursing

  • Advanced practice nurse
  • Provides first-hand experience of opioid crisis from clinical practice at free clinic

Sloane Williams

Health Science Center Marketing & Communications

  • Media, public relations and communications professional
  • Plans, implements and oversees initiatives aimed at promoting the Health Science Center's excellence in research, education and practice

Bree Watzak, PharmD, BCPS

College of Pharmacy

  • Pharmacist with an emphasis on interprofessional education
  • Engages in addiction research and education, especially in rural populations, and offers continuing medical education and interprofessional education

Meredith Williamson, PhD

College of Medicine

  • Clinical psychologist with expertise in evidence-based psychological interventions and interprofessional treatment of health conditions including chronic pain
  • Provides psychological treatment for individuals with chronic pain, collaborates with physicians on psychosocial interventions for chronic pain, and participates in the development of evidence-based policies for opioid management at the Texas A&M Physicians Clinic

Lixian Zhong, PhD

College of Pharmacy

  • Researcher with expertise in pharmacoeconomics and outcomes research
  • Conducts research using national and Texas state-side data to assess the impact of the opioid crisis
  • Evaluates cost-effectiveness of interventions and programs for opioid treatment and management

Student Ambassadors

The first cohort of Texas A&M Health Science Center Opioid Task Force student ambassadors was appointed September 2018, with representation from all Health Science Center components. Initial student ambassador activities will revolve around events scheduled for National Recovery Month.

Opioid Task Force Panel Discussion

On September 26, 2018, the Texas A&M Health Science Center hosted a screening of an episode of Showtime's The Trade, followed by a panel discussion with local experts and the community.