April 9-11, 2018


University of Iowa Opioids Ideas Lab graphic

Are you concerned about the opioid epidemic in Iowa and across our nation? Imagine a rare opportunity to meet and engage with other scholars and researchers from across our campus – economics, public health, policy, history, marketing, liberal arts, anthropology, education, law, medicine, and many more – to envision bold approaches to tackle one of society’s most pressing health crises.

This spring, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development (OVPR&ED) is hosting an Ideas Lab April 9-11, where attendees will have a special opportunity to address the opioid crisis directly and to explore innovative solutions to this complex problem together. By examining the issue as it’s unfolding in Iowa, and by leveraging the university’s unique research and scholarship expertise, you have an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the national effort to combat this epidemic and reverse the deadly trend. During our time together, we’ll draw from a diverse group of minds and disciplines to examine the opioid crisis from novel, creative, blended, and collaborative angles.

Opioid Ideas Lab Fellow 

Eligibility Criteria: All UI personnel who are tenure-track or tenured faculty, clinical track faculty, research faculty, and other staff members for whom research and scholarship are assigned as one of their primary job responsibilities and have at least 50% university appointment during the academic year are eligible to apply. Please note, participation requires committing to all three days of the Ideas Lab.  

Applications to apply to be an Opioid Ideas Lab Fellow have closed.  


Iowa opioid death rates map

Across the nation, the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths is increasing, disproportionately impacting rural communities. In 2016 alone, more Americans died of opioid overdose than there were US deaths during the entire Vietnam War.  A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report has shown that United States  life expectancy has decreased in each of the last two years with drug overdoses as one of the major contributors.

In Iowa, opioid deaths have increased by 250% in the last decade and the CDC predicts that Iowa will be one of the states hit with the most dramatic increases in the next 5 years.  What we are seeing now is the leading edge of a burgeoning disaster that will affect both urban and rural counties without regard to age or economic background.  Recent data shows that more than half of Iowa’s prescription opioid deaths occur in the 35-54 age group with an additional 31% among 15-34 year olds. What we have been doing simply is not working and it is time to look at the problem with a fresh perspective.

The Ideas Lab

University of Iowa researchers have a special opportunity in Iowa to help reduce the burden of opioid overdose.  An “Ideas Lab”, facilitated by Knowinnovation, will focus on innovative solutions to this complex problem. During this  process, we will draw from a diverse group of minds across the array of disciplines at the UI to spend three full days in April examining the opioid crisis from novel, creative, blended, and collaborative angles.

The goal is to bring together a multidisciplinary group of approximately 30 academics from architecture, business, economics, liberal arts, marketing, geography, biology, pharmacology, medicine, public health, policy, history, anthropology, education, law, and others.  This group will work together to bring fresh thinking to the problem, empower and embolden each other to think in new ways, and to craft a range of ideas that will have a practical input on the developing opioid crisis.  Specifically, we would like to look at preventing addiction and negative outcomes to a broad spectrum of opioids. In order to generate radical new ideas we need to broaden the range of people beyond just those who have traditionally thought about this problem. The output from our time together will be new, exciting, and possibly unorthodox ideas that can be developed, with the support of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, into grants for substantive investigation and action.  These ideas may contain some of the pieces that can stem the rising tide of opioid addiction in Iowa as well as across the country. We hope that ideas generated and lessons learned from Iowa’s opioid crisis will play a constructive role in helping to alleviate the risk and burden on states that are on the cusp of the opioid epidemic themselves, while providing useful insights to the current national effort in addressing this crisis.

Event Director

Christopher T. Buresh, MD, MPH
Representative, State EMS Advisory Council
Medical Director, Keokuk County Ambulance Service
Ambassador to Haiti, American College of Emergency Medicine
Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine





Opioid Ideas Lab Projects

Title: Prescriptive Decisions When Patients Have Pain
Team Members:
Michelle Parra (Anesthesia)
Paul Windschitl (Psychological and Brain Sciences)
Lance Clemsen (UIHC)
Barb St. Marie (Nursing)

Title: Iowa Substance Use Data Set (I-SUDS): Good Data, Big Data, Slow Data, Deep Data
Jennifer Sanchez (Rehabilitation & Counselor Education)
Anna Merrill (Pathology)
Brandi Janssen (Occupational and Environmental Health)
Juan Pablo Hourcade (Computer Science)
Boyd Knosp (Institute for Clinical and Translational Science)
James Ray (Palliative Care)

Title: Surgery Decision Making Regarding Opioid Use
Team Members:
Ryan Carnahan (Epidemiology)
Matthew Alexander (Surgery)
Kenda Stewart (VA)
Yatish Ranganath (Anesthesia)
Carri Casteel (Occupational and Environmental Health)
Shane Madsen (Pharmacy)
Grant Brown (Biostatistics)

Title: Mechanisms of Opioid Use
Team Members:
Ashutosh Mangalam (Pathology)
Grant Brown (Biostatistics)
Megan Gilster (Social Work)
Alison Guernsey (Law)
Bruce Ayati (Mathematics)

Community Engagement Event

TitleOpioid Research Networking Event
DateThursday, June 21, 2018
Time: 5:00-8:00 PM
Place: Vue Rooftop, Hilton Garden Inn, 328 S. Clinton Street

On Thursday, June 21, the University of Iowa's Research Development Office will host an evening of informal conversation for researchers and community members where attendees can share and discuss various perspectives of the opioid crisis. The goal of this Opioid Research Networking Event is to bring together individuals from a range of backgrounds to discuss new and novel solutions that may be applied to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

5:00 - 6:00 pm: Reception (Hors d'oeuvres will be served and cash bar is available)
6:00 - 7:00 pm: Small Group Discussions -- Topics could include rural communities, sociodemographic factors, prevention, and mechanisms of addiction
7:00 - 7:30 pm: Discussion groups report
7:30 - 8:00 pm: Networking

Space is limited. Please register here to attend.  Please share with your colleagues or friends that may be interested as well.

Recent University of Iowa Publications

The Prescription Opioid Crisis: Policy and Program Recommendations to Reduce Opioid Overdose and Deaths in Iowa 
Injury Prevention Research Center, August 1, 2017

A Rising Tide of Addiction: Both rural and urban areas are awash in opioids 
College of Public Health's Insight, Fall 2017

Sponsored by:
Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development (Research Development Office), College of Public Health,
Organizational Effectiveness, and the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science