Einstein/Montefiore Department of Medicine

Department Faculty

Dr. Joanna L. Starrels, M.D.,  M.S.

Joanna L. Starrels, M.D., M.S.

Associate Professor, Department of Medicine (General Internal Medicine)

Areas of Research: My research focus is opioid management for patients with chronic pain. I study treatment agreements, drug testing, prescription monitoring programs, collaborative care models, misuse and addiction, and opioid use in HIV care.

Professional Interests

Dr. Starrels is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center. Her research, clinical, teaching, and policy-related activities focus on the safety and effectiveness of opioid analgesics for management of chronic pain. Dr. Starrels received her BA from Wesleyan University, where she majored in the Science in Society Program, and her MD from Jefferson Medical College. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and fellowship in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received a MS in Health Policy Research. Dr. Starrels joined the Einstein/Montefiore faculty in 2008 in the Division of General Internal Medicine. She is teaching faculty in the Internal Medicine and Primary Care and Social Internal Medicine residency training programs, and attending physician at the Montefiore Family Care Center. She is board-certified in both Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine. 

Dr. Starrels' research focuses on defining best practices for managing chronic pain in primary care and HIV treatment settings. She studies the benefits and harms of using opioid management tools such as treatment agreements, urine drug testing, and prescription monitoring programs; the effectiveness of collaborative care models for integrating behavioral health care and pain management; treatment of opioid use disorders in primary care settings; and the impact of opioid analgesic use, misuse and disorders on HIV outcomes.  Her work has been funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Society of General Internal Medicine, the New York Community Trust, and the Einstein-Montefiore Center for AIDS Research.

Selected Publications

Recent Publications

  1. Starrels JL, Fox AD, Kunins HV, Cunningham CO. They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know: Internal Medicine Residents’ Knowledge and Confidence in Urine Drug Test Interpretation for Patients with Chronic Pain. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2012;27(11):1521-1527.
  2. Bachhuber MA, Hennesy S, Cunningham CO, Starrels JL. Increasing benzodiazepine prescriptions and overdose mortality in the United States, 1996-2013. American Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(4):686-8. 
  3. Starrels JL, Peyser D, Haughton L, Fox AD, Merlin J, Arnsten JH, Cunningham CO. When HIV treatment goals conflict with guideline-based opioid prescribing: A qualitative study of HIV treatment providers. Substance Abuse. 2016;37(1):148-53. 

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Research Information

In the News

New York Times quotes Joanna Starrels, M.D., M.S., about the proposed Medicare rule that would deny coverage for long-term, high dose opioid prescriptions.

The Washington Post quotes Drs. Marcus Bachhuber and Chinazo Cunningham about their new study with Dr. Joanna Starrels on the surge in overdose deaths from benzodiazepines.

More media coverage