Penney Cowan is the founder and chief executive officer of the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA). She herself is a person with chronic pain and established the ACPA in 1980 to help others living with the condition. The ACPA provides peer support and education in pain management skills to people with pain and their families. The ACPA also works to build awareness about chronic pain among professionals, decision makers and the general public.
Since 1980, Cowan has been an advocate and consumer representative for pain issues. She was awarded the Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Citizen by the Institute for Public Service, Washington, and is listed in Who's Who in America, 24th Edition. The American Pain Society awarded her the 2005 John and Emma Bonica Public Service Award, Presidential Commendation, American Academy of Pain Medicine, 2013 and the Elizabeth Narcessian Award for Outstanding Educational Achievements, from the American Pain Society, 2013.
She served as: Consumer Representative for the FDA/CDER Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee (AADPAC) for 2012 and was appointed to Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee of the National Insitute of Health from 2013 to 2015.
Cowan began the Partners for Understanding Pain campaign in 2002 in an attempt to raise awareness about the need to better understand, assess, and treat pain. There are more than 80 partner organizations. The campaign, under the direction of the ACPA, successfully established September as Pain Awareness Month.