Ursula Wesselmann, M.D., Ph.D., DTM&H (Lond.)

William A. Lell, M.D. – Paul N. Samuelson, M.D., Endowed Professor

Professor of Anesthesiology, Neurology and Psychology

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine

Division of Pain Medicine

Email: wesselma@uab.edu

Dr. Ursula Wesselmann is a clinician-scientist and an international expert in chronic pain syndromes in women, with a special emphasis on pelvic and urogenital pain. She obtained her medical degree in 1983 and her doctoral degree in neurophysiology in 1987 from the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel, Germany. While attending medical school and then graduate school for her doctoral degree she was the recipient of a full Merit Scholarship of the ‘Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes’, the most prestigious scholarship of the federal government of Germany awarded to fewer than 0.5% of German students, who on account of their exceptional academic or artistic talents, can be expected to make an outstanding contribution to society. She also holds a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (DTM&H, 1985) from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, Great Britain, and has worked in Peru, India, South Africa and in the Kalahari District of Botswana. She is a 2018 graduate of the Women Transforming Leadership Programme at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, Great Britain.

Dr. Wesselmann completed postdoctoral studies in the Department of Physiology at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago (1987 – 1989), a residency in neurology at the University of Chicago (1990 – 1993), and fellowship training in pain management at the Department of Anesthesia at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA (1993 –1994) and at the Blaustein Pain Treatment Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD (1994 – 1995).

She then joined the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as a faculty member (Assistant Professor 1995-2000; Associate Professor 2000-2008) in the Department of Neurology with secondary appointments in Neurological Surgery and Biomedical Engineering to establish a research program in chronic pain and women’s health and served as an Attending Physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital and as a member of the Johns Hopkins Blaustein Pain Treatment Center. In 1996 Johns Hopkins University recognized her potential as a junior faculty member with the Passano Physician Scientist Award. Dr. Wesselmann transferred her research program to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2008 and joined the faculty of UAB as a tenured Professor of Anesthesiology, with secondary appointments in Neurology and Psychology. She currently holds the William A. Lell, M.D.–Paul N. Samuelson, M.D., Endowed Professorship in Anesthesiology.

Over the last 25 years, she has been the Principal Investigator of a translational research laboratory focusing on chronic pain syndromes in women, funded by National Institutes of Health grants (NICHD, NINDS, NIDDK, NCI, NIDA and the Office of Research on Women’s Health), private foundations and industry collaborations. Her research program is investigating the pathophysiological mechanisms of urogenital and pelvic pain syndromes in females. A new area of research investigation is to determine the biological, psychological, and socio-cultural variables contributing to pain and pain-related disability in breast cancer survivors. The long-term goal of her research program is to translate new discoveries into clinical practices that improve the ability to diagnose and treat women experiencing chronic pain.

She is enthusiastic about multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural creative discussions and projects and has organized courses on the intersection of ‘pain and suffering’ and ‘the arts’ for university students. 

Dr. Wesselmann has been a member of the planning committees for multiple NIH workshops and research conferences on chronic pain/women’s health since 2000. She has served as a permanent member of an NIH study section in the past and currently serves as an ad-hoc NIH study section reviewer. She was elected to chair the Special Interest Group on Pain of Urogenital Origin of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) from 2005 – 2008 and served as a committee member of the IASP task force to launch the “IASP Global Year Against Pain in Women” from 2007 - 2008, and the “IASP Global Year against Visceral Pain” from 2012 - 2013. 
Since 2018 she has served as a committee member on the “IASP Developing Countries Working Group” with the aim to advance pain research, education and clinical management in developing countries specifically in the area of chronic pain in women, a subject often under-recognized and considered taboo.  In 2012 she was appointed as a voting member to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Scientific Advisory Committee: Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee for a 3-year term, and reappointed in 2015 as a special government employee until 3/2019. Dr. Wesselmann is a committee member of the Analgesic, Anesthetic, and Addiction Clinical Translations, Innovations, Opportunities, and Networks (ACTTION), a public-private partnership with the FDA since 2012, and an inaugural member of the working group: Addressing Disparities in the Distribution and Assessment of Pain and Its Treatments (ADDAPT), which was established in 2017. Dr. Wesselmann served as an Associate Editor for the European Journal of Pain from 2006 - 2008 and for Pain from 2005 – 2009. She is currently a member of the Editorial Board for The Clinical Journal of Pain (1999 – present) and an Associate Editor for Frontiers in Pain Research - Abdominal and Pelvic Pain (2020 – present).

Dr. Wesselmann was elected as a Fellow to the American Neurological Association (ANA) in 2006. Since 2021 she serves as a committee member on the recently launched ANA task force: Inclusion/Diversity/Equity/Anti-racism/Social Justice (IDEAS). This new task force is charged with developing and instituting programs and policies that develop an organizational culture that values and acknowledges the ANA’s diverse membership and foster an inclusive and equitable organizational culture that serves as an example to the academic neurology and neuroscience community at large. 

In 2010 she was appointed as a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee responsible for preparing the landmark 2011 report on "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research", which addressed the current state of the science with respect to pain research, care and education in the USA. The report was issued at the request of Congress as part of President Obama’s Health Care Reform Legislation. Since 2018 she has served on the External Consultant Board for the ‘Preclinical Screening Platform for Pain’ at NIH, a novel preclinical pain therapy screening platform that has been launched at NINDS as part of the NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative, a trans-NIH program to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis in the USA.