Tough habit to break: professor awarded $1.6 million to create 'virtual patients,' continue tobacco cessation work


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A project led by a Purdue University professor will create "virtual patients" and educational assessments to help medical, nursing and pharmacy students learn how to counsel patients to quit smoking.

Karen Hudmon, a professor of pharmacy practice at Purdue, leads the project, which received $1.6 million from the National Institutes of Health. The teaching and learning tools developed through the project will be available for free to health professional schools and the public.

"Tobacco use is the primary known preventable cause of disease and death in the United States and results in enormous health care costs," Hudmon said. "It is well established that the most effective method to quit is a combination of counseling from a health care provider and the use of medication to alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal, but most health professional schools are not adequately preparing students for this role."

It is estimated that 42.1 million people in the United States smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 70 percent of smokers would like to quit. However, fewer than 5 percent of those who try to quit on their own have long-term success.

The project builds on Hudmon's successful education program Rx for Change: Clinician-Assisted Tobacco Cessation, which began in 1999 as a collaboration with the University of California San Francisco and is now used to teach tobacco cessation counseling to students in health care fields throughout the United States and in 46 other countries.

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