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American Pain panel August 31 to explore painkiller epidemic

Faculty from WVU's Reed College of Journalism, College of Law, and School of Medicine are Collaborating in a Panel Discussion

When West Virginia University Associate Professor John Temple read an article about the country’s deadliest pill mill, he was fascinated by the story and wanted to uncover more.

The result is his third book, “American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic.” The book is the true story of twin brothers Chris and Jeff George, who ran an illegal painkiller distribution scheme through a Florida-based chain of pain clinics. The clinic’s physicians distributed massive quantities of oxycodone to addicts posing as patients—giving rise to a new drug industry that tipped the current opioid crisis.

In recognition of the book’s debut, the WVU Reed College of Media and the WVU College of Law will co-host a panel discussion, “American Pain: Examining the Painkiller Epidemic,” to explore the painkiller epidemic in the United States and its impact on society. The event will be on Monday, August 31, at 7 p.m. in the College of Law’s Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom. Temple says it’s important to have this public conversation about painkillers because so many West Virginians have been affected by prescription drug abuse.

“There’s not a person in Appalachia who hasn’t been affected by the painkiller epidemic in some way,” said Temple. “I’m hoping this event and my book will help educate the public about the deadly effects of opioids. Just because these drugs are prescribed by a doctor doesn’t mean they’re safe.”


John Temple is an associate professor at the WVU Reed College of Media. He teaches reporting and writing courses and specializes in narrative nonfiction. Temple’s previous books include, “The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates” (2009) and “Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner’s Office” (2005). In 2010, “The Last Lawyer” won the Scribes Book Award from the American Society of Legal Writers. Prior to joining WVU in 2002, Temple taught creative nonfiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He also worked as a reporter for six years for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina. Temple earned his M.F.A from the University of Pittsburgh. More information can be found at

Valarie Blake is an associate professor at the WVU College of Law and specializes in health care law. Blake has served as an ethics senior research associate for the American Medical Association, where she engaged in research and policy-making efforts related to the association’s Code of Medical Ethics. She also has worked at the Cleveland Clinic as an advanced bioethics fellow providing bedside ethics consultation, research teaching, and service in the areas of law, ethics, and professionalism. She holds a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, an M.A. in medical ethics from Case Western Reserve University, and a B.S. in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh.

Carl Sullivan is a professor and vice chair in the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at the WVU School of Medicine. He serves as medical director of Substance Abuse Programs for West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. In addition, Sullivan has served as director of the West Virginia Addiction Training Institute for 25 years. In 2011, Governor Tomblin invited him to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse (GACSA) regarding addiction policy in the State of West Virginia. Sullivan has presented numerous workshops and plenary sessions and consulted with treatment programs internationally, nationally and statewide on the subject of substance abuse. He has testified before the House of Representatives Appropriations Sub-Committee on prescription opioid abuse in Appalachia.


Emily Corio is a teaching assistant professor at the WVU Reed College of Media. She teaches classes in video and multimedia reporting. In addition, Corio is among the faculty working on an experimental journalism class in fall 2015 that will combine data journalism and science reporting to reveal water quality issues in northern West Virginia. Prior to joining WVU in 2011, she was assistant news director for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Her work has aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PRI’s “The Takeaway” and the CBC. Last spring, Corio earned the Broadcast Education Association’s “Best of Festival” award in the faculty audio competition.

The panel discussion coincides with International Overdose Day and is part of a series of nationwide rallies in conjunction with the FED UP! Coalition. FED UP! is a grassroots coalition seeking action from the federal government to bring an end to the country’s opioid crisis.

This event is free and open to the public with a reception and book signing immediately following the panel discussion.



CONTACT: Kimberly Walker, WVU Reed College of Media

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