September 7, 2001

Starr traveling to Africa to teach

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Starr traveling
to Africa to teach

After 17 years of work with patients recovering from alcohol and drug dependence at VUMC, Karen Starr, MSN, is sharing her knowledge with the rest of the world.

On Sept. 6, Starr, associate in Psychiatry and the director of Transplant Psychiatry, will travel to Bloemfontein, South Africa to participate in a conference on the prevention and treatment of alcohol use disorders.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAAA) asked Starr, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and four other medical professionals from across the country to teach classes covering such topics as Prevention, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Medical Detoxification, and Pharmacotherapy.

“Because my area of expertise is clinical addiction medicine and there will be many nurses there to learn, I was invited to accompany the five-member team to South Africa,” Starr said.

The conference, titled NIAAA Medical Education Conference on the Prevention and Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorders, will include local speakers in addition to those arriving from abroad, and will be presented to approximately 50 South African health care providers. The NIAAA’s goal for the program is to equip these physicians and nurses with important prevention and early intervention information to pass along to the communities they represent.

The NIAAA selected South Africa as the site for this conference based on the pervasiveness of alcohol abuse in many areas of the country, Starr said.

According to Starr, the high consumption of alcohol by pregnant women in the Western Cape Province, the southernmost province of South Africa, causes many children to be born with FAS. This trend has been highlighted frequently in recent publications, she said.

“Women in wine fields are drinking through pregnancy, and some have a number of children with FAS already,” Starr said. “South Africans are coming to terms with alcohol use, which extends to more than women farm workers. They have high rates of binge alcoholism, DUI, deaths from being run over. It is very much a part of violence there. Violence and trauma have an 80 percent association with alcohol use there.”

This will be the first time that the curriculum of the conference has been introduced in an African country, although it has been used in eight other countries around the world already.

Starr’s trip to South Africa will not be the first time that she has traveled outside of the United States to lend her knowledge of alcohol and drug addiction to other parts of the world. In 1994, she went to South Australia to participate in on-site training sponsored by People for Alcohol Concerns and Education (PACE).

“My work at Vanderbilt has truly been rewarding, both professionally and personally,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to represent Vanderbilt University in the past and am looking forward to this trip immensely.”