Spotlight on Engagement: Erin Krebs

Comparing treatment strategies for patients taking long-term opioid pain medications

Lead Researcher: Erin Krebs, MD, MPH at Minneapolis VA

Co-Principal Investigators: Karen Seal MD MPH at San Francisco VA, William Becker MD at West Haven VA

What is the focus of your research?

We will be comparing two treatment strategies for patients with pain who are taking long-term opioid pain medications with the goal of better managing pain and helping patients reduce their opioid medication doses. We’ll be enrolling eligible Veterans at 9 VA Medical Centers across the country.

How has stakeholder engagement helped your project so far?

We have worked with 2 stakeholder panels so far – one is a patient panel and one is a front-line clinician panel. The patients have helped us re-design our study brochure and have provided feedback on educational materials and our recruitment letter. We pick a topic each month and tap in to their expertise. The clinician stakeholders are helping the researchers see things through the lens of a front-line provider – and they too are helping give feedback on training materials and processes.

What is a lesson you’ve learned from your stakeholder engagement work?

Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism! People really appreciate the opportunity to be asked for their input. For example, our patient panel is very thoughtful in the wording they choose for recruitment and educational materials – and they often choose phrases or highlight points differently than our research team would.

What WINRS services have you used?

This is the first year of a multi-year project. We really wanted to set the tone for a positive, engaging experience for our stakeholders during this start-up phase. WINRS helped us design a meeting agenda, provided materials, then helped us co-facilitate our inaugural in-person patient stakeholder meeting in June. Since then, they have provided regular coaching and consultation to help us continue to engage our patient panel during monthly telephone meetings.


Each month, WINRS interviews research teams we’ve worked with to ask about the benefits and challenges related to stakeholder engagement. If you’d like to be interviewed, please email