60 Seconds with... Penney Cowan, the American Chronic Pain Association

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Each month we will be interviewing an IAPO member in six short questions. They will be featured in our newsletter and the website.

Our featured member of the month is Penney Cowan from American Chronic Pain Association​. Penney is joining the IAPO Governing Board in August and answered a few questions for us.

1. Describe your role at the American Chronic Pain Association:

In 1980 after leaving a pain management program at the Cleveland Clinic, I founded the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA). In the past 35 years I have worked hard to reach out to people living with pain, letting them know they are not alone and there is hope. It has been the people I have encountered and their needs that have helped me to develop all the educational materials and tools that are a significant part of the ACPA. While the ACPA does not provide medical treatment or advice, we are there for anyone who asks for help. 

2. I do what I do because...

I know what it is like to live a life that is controlled by pain. I know how controlling it can be, taking away your self-esteem, your ability to function and your hope that life will ever be “normal” again. But I also know that with the right treatment and the right kind of self-management skills, one can regain control of life in spite of the pain. People with pain need hope. Telling them to "learn to live with it” doesn’t help, you have to teach them how to live with pain. That is what drives me to reach out to a person with pain who is ready to give up.  

3. Why does the American Chronic Pain Association exist?

The ACPA exists to provide a sense of hope and the belief that tomorrow can be better, even with chronic pain. To be there for a person who needs to know how important it is to become an active part of the treatment team and get involved in their care. The ACPA has developed a variety of graphical tools to bridge the gap of communication between the person with pain and their healthcare provider (HCP). The key is that the person with pain has got to become an active part of the treatment team and the ACPA provides the tools and skills needed to accomplish that. 

4. What is your biggest achievement as an organization in the past year?

As the ACPA celebrates 35 years of service and hope for people with pain, I look back and realize the people who have allowed the ACPA to reach out to them and improve the quality of their life, increase their function and reduce their sense of suffering. I am so proud of each person who has regained control of his or her life. The ACPA has also completed the award-winning Family Matters video to explore the needs of families and friends who live with a person with pain. 

5. What does patient-centred healthcare look like to you?

To put the patient in the centre of the care. Not to simply do a treatment or test, but to include the patient in every step of care. For the patient to have the ability to hold a conversation with their healthcare provider so the patient can understand and make an informed decision about their care. It is important to ensure that the patient is included in every decision. 

6. What do you think is the key benefit of being involved with IAPO and a global alliance for patients?

To be part of an amazing group of people who willingly give their time and talents to improve the care of every patient around the world.   From my first experience at a Global Patient Congress, I know that I was in the presence of a very special group of people committed to helping improve patient care.

If you are an IAPO member and would like to be featured in our '60 seconds with...' series, please get in touch.

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