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NIDA Funds $1.7 Million Research Education Project to Help Bridge the Gap from Research to Practice


A challenge that has faced the mental and behavioral health fields for many years is the ability to research and test the effectiveness of prevention and treatment programs and apply them in real-world settings with diverse populations. In the Tampa Bay area, this is especially true when serving children and youth who experience mental illness and racial/ethnic disparities. It is also of great concern, as statistics show these groups have greater risks for drug abuse and addiction in later life.

A new project at USF, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, will help address these issues by merging the skills and experience of local community treatment providers, USF academic researchers and national experts. The Department of Community and Family Health in the USF College of Public Health, the Department of Child & Family Studies in the USF College of Behavioral & Community Sciences, and Community Collaborating Partners that span a range of services relevant to child and adolescent drug abuse and mental health, will work together to provide advanced training in translational research and the implementation of evidence-based practices in the areas of alcohol, drug abuse and co-occurring disorders.

Developed as a research education project, the Institute for Translational Research and Education (ITRE) will provide a team mentoring approach with student researchers and professionals in the field. Paired with local and national experts serving as mentors, students and professionals will work together in the study of applied proven treatment programs while adapting them for various adolescent populations in a range of settings.  

The five-year grant-funded project will involve the selection of 15 students each year to complete a 15 credit-hour Graduate Certificate Program in Translational Research in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health, and focuses on translational research methods, policies and perspectives, and the practical skills of participatory research.  This grant will use a unique cross-disciplinary approach between public health and behavioral health and relies on a model of graduate education that includes graduate web-based and face-to-face training, service learning in the community, and a community based capstone project.  In addition, the NIDA grant and the graduate certificate program will serve as a research component of the Graduate Studies in Behavioral Health Program, a collaborative teaching and research initiative between the two participating USF Colleges.

With the first cohort beginning in the Spring of 2013, students will be chosen from graduate level programs at USF. Special attention will be given to the recruitment of a diverse group of participants. Julie Baldwin, PhD, will serve as the project’s Principal Investigator; Dr. Baldwin is a Professor in the Department of Community and Family Health in the College of Public Health. Co-investigators are Bruce Lubotsky Levin, DrPH, Associate Professor and the grant’s Curriculum Director, Tom Massey, PhD, Associate Professor and Evaluation Director for the project, and Donna Burton, Ed.M., Assistant Research Professor and Project Director, all of whom are faculty in the USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences. Drs. Levin & Massey are also joint faculty in the Department of Community and Family Health, and Ms. Burton is a doctoral candidate in the department.

“In light of the shortage of minority mental health and drug abuse researchers, the importance of this recruitment goal cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Julie Baldwin. “In addition, ITRE’s team mentoring approach, through partnerships with community organizations, is in keeping with NIDA’s priority to educate a range of audiences on the science underlying drug abuse.”

ITRE participants will disseminate the findings of their projects through: conference presentations, including the ITRE conference held each spring in conjunction with the Annual Children’s Mental Health Research & Policy Conference; publication of articles in peer review journals, including the Journal of Behavioral Services & Research; as well as partner websites and newsletters.

“Our goal is to transform this innovative translational research education curriculum into stand-alone, self-directed learning modules that can be packaged together for application in other academic and community settings,” added Dr. Baldwin.

(Team photo above l to r: Julie Baldwin, PhD, Donna Burton, MA, Bruce L. Levin, PhD, Oliver T. Massey, PhD)

For more on this story, visit USF Health.

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