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Opioid Task Force

Texas A&M Health Science Center Opioid Task Force

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, 2016

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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. 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health / 2. Mortality in the United States, 2016 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

Inaugural Task Force Members

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

School of Public Health

  • 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

Katie Pekarek, DO

College of Medicine

  • Family medicine physician
  • Directs process to write an evidence-based chronic opioid therapy guidelines and instituted a residency-wide curriculum on the treatment of chronic pain

Cheryl Pullium, MSN, RN, ACNS

College of Nursing

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

Holly Shive

Health Science Center Public Affairs

  • 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