A minor high school football injury is what Omar Abubaker, D.M.D., Ph.D., believes ultimately led to his late son Adam’s opioid addiction. In 2013, Adam had surgery to repair the injury and received a prescription of 90 Vicodin pills to manage his postoperative pain.
“He didn’t get addicted at the time,” said Dr. Abubaker, “but gradually he kept coming back seeking more opioid prescriptions.”
Adam began to struggle with prescription opioid medications, and like many who are prescribed opioids, he later transitioned to using heroin, the illicit drug which is cheap, widely available, highly addictive and deadly. Adam’s active heroin addiction lasted four months before his family helped him enter treatment. He would spend approximately 10 months in recovery before tragically dying of an overdose at age 21. All told, his battle against addiction spanned less than a year from his first prescription to his untimely death, a grim reminder of how intractable the opioid epidemic has become in the U.S.
Since then, Dr. Abubaker has been devoted to teaching safe prescribing practices to students in the VCU schools of Dentistry and Medicine. As a practicing professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery, Dr. Abubaker knows the medical profession has a moral imperative to deepen its understanding of addiction and to reform standards and practices to guard against future tragedies.
“No parent should have to endure the hardship of a loss this great,” Dr. Abubaker said. “Doctors, including myself, were part of this opioid epidemic. I have made it my personal mission to be a part of the solution and to educate other health care providers on the dangers that opioid prescriptions pose and safe prescribing practices.”
After losing his son, Dr. Abubaker earned a graduate certificate in addiction studies to train for his work helping others increase their knowledge of addiction issues.
In October 2020, Dr. Abubaker and his wife Rebecca made a lead gift to establish the Adam Abubaker Memorial Lectureship in the VCU School of Medicine. The goal is to raise a minimum of $100,000 to fully endow the lectureship. To date, nearly $70,000 has been raised. The lectureship will highlight topics related to addiction medicine including prevention, treatment and improving the health of the community, as well as enhancing understanding of addiction and substance use disorders.
“My studies confirmed my previous lack of scientific and medical knowledge about addiction,” Dr. Abubaker said. “Not surprisingly, many of my colleagues in medicine and dentistry shared these profound deficiencies.”
Dr. Abubaker has been using his personal and professional experience with the opioid epidemic to lecture on the dangers of these narcotics whenever possible. With this lectureship fund, he hopes to create an annual opportunity to ensure faculty and students on the MCV Campus can learn from the latest research on addiction and how practitioners across the health sciences can work to be part of a solution to the opioid crisis.
If you would like to support Dr. Abubaker’s work to honor his son’s memory by advocating for changes that save lives and improve care for people struggling with addiction, you may send your check, payable to MCV Foundation, to MCV Foundation, Box 980234, Richmond, VA 23298 or make a gift online. For more information, contact Brian Thomas, vice president and chief development officer for the MCV Foundation