Roger B. Fillingim, PhD, a faculty member in the Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science, has been a member of the UFCD faculty since 2,000. He also recently joined the UFCD Research Committee. A Clinical Psychologist by training, he has had a longstanding interest in research to address the nation’s most expensive public health problem, chronic pain.
Fillingim directs the UF Pain Research & Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE), which is supported by the College of Dentistry, the CTSI, the Institute on Aging, and the UF Health Cancer Center. PRICE provides resources in support of clinical and translational pain research and facilitates collaborations among UF pain researchers and other UF programs of research excellence. An important PRICE facility is the Pain Clinical Research Unit, directed by UFCD’s Dr. Joe Riley, which provides a venue for patient-oriented pain research and includes locations in the Clinical Research Center, Institute on Aging, and the Dental Tower.
Fillingim’s research program has focused on understanding the factors that contribute to individual differences in the experience of pain. He and his colleagues have shown consistent sex differences in pain responses, which may contribute to females’ increased risk for chronic pain. In addition, his work has identified several genetic factors that contribute to pain perception and analgesic responses. He also serves as the PI for the Florida site of the NIDCR-funded OPPERA (Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment) Study, which endeavors to identify risk factors for development of temporomandibular disorders and related pain conditions.
In recent years, Fillingim’s research has investigated pain among older adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA) in the UPLOAD (Understanding Pain and Limitations in OsteoArthritic Disease) Study. For the past several years, he and his colleagues both at UF and at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have been attempting to understand why African Americans with knee OA tend to experience greater pain and disability compared to their white counterparts. Earlier this year, the UPLOAD renewal application received a perfect score from study section, and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) funded the project as a MERIT Award. According to the NIA, MERIT Awards are intended “to provide long-term grant support to investigators whose research competence and productivity are distinctly superior and who are highly likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner.” The proposed research project aims to elucidate the mechanisms underlying ethnic group differences in knee OA-related pain by examining inflammatory processes and their potential influence on pain-related brain structure and function. Fillingim’s collaborators on this project include UF faculty from UFCD, the College of Nursing and the College of Medicine, as well as the UPLOAD team at UAB.
Fillingim is also spearheading a broader initiative in pain and aging research at UF, in collaboration with the Institute on Aging and the CTSI. He recently received a K07 Research Career Award from NIA to develop the Pain and Aging Research Translational Initiative (PARTI), which will provide resources and leadership to build a nationally recognized program of pain and aging research.
In addition to his research accomplishments, he has a strong commitment to mentoring and has been quite active in the pain community at the national level. In the past 15 years, he has mentored 10 postdoctoral fellows, 10 junior faculty, and numerous dental and undergraduate students. Also, Fillingim directs the CTSI Mentor Academy, a training program designed to provide education and training regarding best practices in mentoring. He also recently completed a two-year term as President of the American Pain Society, the largest national organization devoted to pain research and education.
Fillingim was promoted to Distinguished Professor in 2014, and he plans to continue his pain research in hopes of generating new knowledge that will benefit the 100 million people in the US who suffer from chronic pain.