Addressing the Urgency: AFMC and Queen’s Health Sciences Launch Specialized National Curricula for Opioid Education

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September 18, 2023

New, national curricula for opioid education has been launched to help physicians contend with Canada’s addiction crisis.

The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), in collaboration with Queen’s Health Sciences’ Office of Professional Development & Educational Scholarship (OPDES), developed the resources for current and future physicians. New programs for postgraduate and international students join successful models built for undergraduate students and learners pursing continuing professional development. 

The Canada-wide, bilingual, comprehensive, and competency-based curricula is designed for current and future physicians in pain management, opioid use disorder, and addiction medicine.

“We are proud to help develop this dynamic space for learning,” says Dr. Jane Philpott, Dean, Queen’s Health Sciences. “Addiction and pain management are critical issues in our health systems and this program will help prepare students and professionals to meet our patients and communities needs. These crucial educational tools are the result of five years of dedicated partnership with the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada and showcases our joint commitment to advancing medical education in Canada.”

The national curricula aims to improve collective efforts to treat patients and address Canada’s deepening opioid crisis. Between January 2016 and September 2022, Canada recorded over 34,400 apparent opioid toxicity deaths, according to the Canadian Centre of Substance Use and Addiction – including a 91 per cent spike during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CCSA, opioid pain relievers were used by 11.8% of the population in June 2020.

Since its introduction in 2021, the Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) program has been adopted by all 17 medical schools nationwide. With a comprehensive curriculum available in both French and English, UGME has already engaged over 2,900 learners in the Queen’s Health Sciences. What drives the learning is a fusion of self-assessment and case-based explorations developed to provide a comprehensive, self-directed exploration of high-impact practices for health professionals.

The curricula’s reach and impact has expanded with programs for Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME), Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and Internationally Educated Physicians (IEP). The development team at OPDES played a pivotal role as both consultant and contractor throughout this transformative journey. Leveraging their expertise in educational best practices and user experience design, OPDES facilitated the development of state-of-the-art learning experiences that promote competency development and active engagement.

The IEP module, released in July 2023, aims to help graduates from medical schools outside of Canada determine which UGME module(s) they may explore further to address gaps in knowledge and which module(s) they may wish to simply review. This will further support IEPs in their pursuit of success in Canadian medical practice.

The successful development of eight bilingual PGME modules and eight bilingual Continuing Professional Development (CPD) modules was driven by a team of passionate physicians, educators and subject matter experts from across Canada. Their collaborative efforts culminated in the creation of impactful educational pieces that can be utilized on demand, making learning engaging and accessible for medical professionals. Click here to watch a short demo of the CPD offering.

Incorporating a patient-centered approach, the modules were co-developed with patients and family caregivers. The development team purposefully and consistently intertwined the voice of physicians and patients throughout the module series, ensuring a well-rounded and comprehensive educational experience.

To assist residents and physicians in identifying their knowledge gaps, a Self-Assessment Tool developed by OPDES has been integrated into the programs. This online tool offers a convenient, engaging, and free resource for learners, providing multiple-choice assessment questions related to each module. Instant feedback is provided, including explanations for correct and incorrect answers, empowering individuals to enhance their competencies. Additionally, participants can earn assessment MAINPRO+ and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada credits, further incentivizing their continued professional growth and making the tool work for them.

“Working with OPDES at Queen’s Health Sciences has allowed our team to develop educational modules that reflect best educational practices using the best available technology,” says project lead Dr. Lisa Graves of the AFMC. “In addition, the support of OPDES has allowed us to engage in ongoing project evaluation resulting in improved programming through rapid cycle feedback.”

For further information about the AFMC Response to Opioid Crisis programs, please contact:

Media Contacts

Chris Lackner
Associate Director, Communications & Digital Strategy
Queen’s Health Sciences, Queen’s University

C 3433634079

Annie Barrette
Director, Strategic Communications and Government Relations
The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada


 Queen’s University has a long history of scholarship, discovery, and innovation that has shaped our collective knowledge and helped address some of the world’s most pressing concerns. Home to more than 25,000 students, the university offers a comprehensive research-intensive environment with prominent strengths in physics, cancer research, geoengineering, data analytics, surveillance studies, art conservation, and mental health research. Welcoming and supporting students from all countries and backgrounds to a vibrant, safe, and supportive community is an important part of the Queen’s experience. Diverse perspectives and a wealth of experience enrich our campus and our community. A core part of our mission is to engage our students, staff, and faculty in international learning and research, both at home and abroad.

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Founded in 1943, the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) represents Canada’s 17 faculties of medicine and is the voice of academic medicine in this country. Our member faculties graduate over 2 ,700 MDs per year; teach over 11,500 undergraduate medical students; train over 15,000 postgraduate trainees; employ nearly 48,000 full and part-time faculty members and undertake over 3 billion dollars of biomedical and health care research annually.