Roger B. Fillingim, PhD, Professor and Director, University of Florida, Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence, Gainesville, FL.
What inspired you to become a healthcare provider?
I was naturally drawn to psychology by its application of the scientific method to understand the fascinating workings of the brain, and its perceptual and emotional outputs. After majoring in psychology, I knew that I wanted to focus on the application of psychological methods and research to improve human health.
Why did you focus on pain management?
The idea that “psychological” processes could directly impact physical functioning was just beginning to take hold. In surveying the landscape of medical conditions in which psychologists were already playing a significant role, pain management immediately rose to the top. One of my advisers lent me Bill Fordyce’s book, entitled “Behavioral Methods in Chronic Pain and Illness,” and I was hooked. I subsequently began working in a multidisciplinary chronic pain management program, which I found fascinating and quite rewarding.
Who were your mentors?
My parents imparted to me a sense of independence and responsibility, which served as the foundation for my academic pursuits. I owe them both a great debt for the confidence and work ethic that they instilled in me. My primary research mentor was Bill Maixner from University of North Carolina, who taught me how to conduct mechanistically-based and clinically relevant pain research. We remain close friends and colleagues to this day. Clinically, I learned a great deal from my graduate school mentor Dr. Dan Doleys, and from my first postdoctoral mentor Dr. Virgil Wittmer. They both ran extremely well-designed and effective pain rehabilitation programs, which were outstanding venues for learning the multidisciplinary approach to pain management.
If you weren't a healthcare provider, what would you be?
Honestly, I have no idea. It’s hard to imagine doing anything else. I really have no other marketable skills. Sometimes I think it would be fun to own a bed and breakfast inn in a quaint little beach town.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My interest in forming meaningful connections. I really enjoy being part of the pain research and treatment community. I have met many good friends, whom I’ve known now for many years. It seems like a giant social support network, because there are so many people I can go to for assistance with a research question, a clinical issue, or to get a restaurant recommendation in another town. This is the best part of my job.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’m not sure I have one, but I am happy to have stayed active and relevant in the field for many years, and I hope to continue this trend for years to come.
What is your favorite language?
Well, English is the only one I know, but I love the way Spanish sounds, and the passion that it can convey.
If you had to choose one book, one film, and one piece of music to take into space for an undetermined amount of time, what would they be?
The book I would take is When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner. Reading his books years ago helped shape my approach to life. The film I would take is The Lion King, because it evokes wonderful memories of time with my kids when they were young, and it also has great lessons for people of any age. The piece of music would be Jean by Dan Hill. It is a great song about the power and importance of friendship and love.
What would you like your legacy to be?
That I treated people with courtesy and respect, and that at least most of the time, people were the better for having known me.
What is your motto?
Spend your time doing things you enjoy with people you enjoy.