UA student heads to DC to showcase research on opioid alternatives

UA student heads to DC to showcase research on opioid alternatives
Lindsey Chew

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A University of Arizona student is in Washington DC to showcase research that could curb the opioid crisis.

Lindsey Chew met with state lawmakers on Tuesday, April 17, and Wednesday morning she visited the offices of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake.

She was one of 60 undergraduate students in the US – and the only one from Arizona – chosen for the trip called Posters on the Hill. It allows students to present research on a variety of topics.

Chew presented research on non-opioid pain-relief drugs, work that has been happening for years in the lab of Dr. Rajesh Khanna of the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson.

They've been testing drugs that could eventually become alternatives to opioids.

Since last summer, more than 1,000 people in Arizona died of suspected opioid-related overdoses. Click here to see the latest numbers:

During her trip, she wanted to show lawmakers that researchers are working to fight the problem.

"The opioid epidemic has really mushroomed into not only a national but international problem," she said in a Skype interview. "In Arizona, there has been an opioid epidemic that's been declared by our governor, and so (we are) trying to focus on that problem and looking for ways to combat that problem."

She also wanted lawmakers to understand the importance of continued government funding for their research.

"It's really been a transformative experience realizing that as scientists we really have the social obligation to share about what we're doing with the general public. There's a saying, 'If a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it, did it really fall?' I think it's the same thing in science," she said.

Clinical trials for the drugs could begin as soon as 2020.

Meanwhile, Lindsey will graduate in May with a degree in neuroscience and cognitive science. She plans to continue her graduate studies at Duke University.

She hopes to one day return to the U of A as a faculty member.

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