Dr. Ratan Banik Pioneers New Pathways to Alleviate Pain

Dr. Ratan Banik, MD, PhD, found his life’s work after a family calamity. His father got hurt, and medical providers struggled to relieve his debilitating pain from complex regional pain syndrome.

Already pursuing a medical career in his native Bangladesh, Banik decided to focus on advancing research and therapies to help people like his dad. Though specializing in clinical pain management is a long enough road, Banik took a detour into scientific research. He delved deeper into the body’s pain mechanisms by earning his doctorate from Nagoya University in Japan.

Next Banik completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on the neural mechanisms of pain. In 2007, he started a lab at the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute, quickly securing grants from the National Institutes of Health and American Federation for Aging Research for varied research, including why elderly people have different sensitivities to pain.

Yet Banik never lost sight of his mission to personally help people in pain. Even though he had a successful lab and the demands of a young family, Banik felt driven to refocus on his long-ago objective to be a clinician. He restarted these pursuits in 2011 with a general surgery internship at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, an anesthesiology residency at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, and a fellowship in pain management at MD Anderson Cancer ​Center in Texas.

“Becoming a clinician and researcher was my driving force,” says Banik, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Minnesota. “I worked like crazy to complete my ultimate goal.”

Landing his position in 2016 was the culmination of this achievement. Banik is thrilled to unite his two areas of expertise at the University, splitting time between the operating room, the Pain Clinic, and research.

Banik pursues many lines of scientific inquiry, such as genetic causes that underlie inter-individual variation in pain sensitivity.  In addition, he and his co-workers are currently working on to develop a new analgesic drug that will target the peripheral nervous system, so patients can avoid having sedation and other central side effects. ​

Taking a novel approach, Banik recently co-developed an iPhone app called Train of Four. Using electrical stimulation and the iPhone’s accelerometer technology, anesthesiologists can use the app to objectively gauge whether patient’s muscle relaxants have worn off during the perioperative period. Banik will present this emerging technology at the upcoming annual national meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

It’s all part of Banik’s multi-pronged mission to make contributions in the lab that clinicians can bring to the bedside. “I really like to use my expertise and research experience when I see patients,” he says. “I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time.”

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