Pat Tillman Scholar volunteering on non-opioid pain relief research

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Ryan Schmoll has been volunteering in the study of green light therapy. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Ryan Schmoll has been volunteering in the study of green light therapy. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Now three years into his studies, he says he's focusing on non-opioid pain relief after watching some of his military buddies struggle with their injuries. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Now three years into his studies, he says he's focusing on non-opioid pain relief after watching some of his military buddies struggle with their injuries. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
If it works, Schmoll hopes it can help keep people off opioids. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) If it works, Schmoll hopes it can help keep people off opioids. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

It's green for go in the lab where Ryan Schmoll volunteers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson Campus. Schmoll is working with a U of A professor, studying the positive effect green light has on rats. 

"We found that for some reason, it has something to do with calcium channels in the brain, 525 nanometers of green light helps take away pain," said Schmoll. 

Schmoll didn't start off in the medical field. His story began in the Air Force. 

[SPECIAL SECTION: Pat's Run]

"It took me to some cold places, like Wyoming, did a little bit of nuclear weapons work there. And it took me to some hot places, like Iraq. Did a little bit of personal security detail work there. It also took me to Afghanistan," said Schmoll. 
 
There, he says, the most effective peacemakers were often the military doctors. 

"It was impressive to see a physician's care of an Iraqi soldier or a civilian who was hurt by a roadside bomb could quickly translate to a de-escalation of violence throughout the whole area," said Schmoll. 

[RELATED: Tillman scholar cares for cancer patients in Seattle area]

After 10 years of service, it was time for Schmoll to come home. He decided to enroll in medical school. 

Now three years into his studies, he says he's focusing on non-opioid pain relief after watching some of his military buddies struggle with their injuries.

"For these more serious cases, you can't throw Percocet and Vicodin at it for years on end, that's not a solution. It numbs them to their entire lives," said Schmoll. 

That's where he says green light therapy comes in. 

"It is simple on the surface, I guess," said Schmoll. "But the intensity of the wavelength is very closely monitored and measured." 

He says it's been proven to ease pain in rats and looks promising in human trials too. 

"Surprisingly so," he said. 

[RELATED: U of A researcher shining a light on managing chronic pain]

If it works, Schmoll and the team he's volunteering with hope it can help keep people off opioids. And for those already addicted, it would help wean them off their pain pills. 

"'Let's try to come up with some better solutions here,'" he said. 

Last year, Schmoll was awarded a scholarship through the Pat Tillman Foundation. He says the award helps keep him in the lab focused on his work, dedicated to helping others the way Pat Tillman would have wanted. 

"My path in medicine is helping live up to his legacy a little bit," said Schmoll.

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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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