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Spotlight - Programs

Research Day Registration is Open!

It’s time to register for the Fifteenth Annual Department of Psychiatry Research Day.  We will be hosting this event at the University Club in Oakland on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Click here to view the program at a glance. Registration is required to attend this event, so be sure to submit your registration form by June 4, 2015.

We hope you will join us for this full-day event that showcases the research accomplishments of our Department. 

The morning poster session will feature the work of 129 researchers representing a broad array of scientific interests. 

The popular lunchtime roundtable discussions will also be offered again this year.  Seating is limited, so you are encouraged to register early to secure a spot in one of the following roundtable discussions:

 

Roundtable TopicFacilitator(s)
Roundtable 1 - Research Training for Psychiatric PhysiciansDanella Hafeman, MD, PhD and Brandon McKinney, MD, PhD
Roundtable 2 - New Technologies for ResearchMichael Marshal, PhD, Jay Fournier, PhD and Jack Doman
Roundtable 3 - Translational Treatment DevelopmentRobert Sweet, MD and Eva Szigethy, MD, PhD
Roundtable 4 - Different Modalities of Human Brain ImagingMary Phillips, MD, MD (CANTAB) and Dean Salisbury, PhD
Roundtable 5 - New Methods for Treatment StudiesDavid Brent, MD and Anne Germain, PhD
Roundtable 6 - NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC)Erika Forbes, PhD and Cecile Ladouceur, PhD
Roundtable 7 - Promotions/Career DevelopmentKaren Matthews, PhD
Roundtable 8 - Machine Learning and Big DataNeal Ryan, MD
Roundtable 9 - Translational Components in Clinical ResearchColleen McClung, PhD and Brant Hasler, PhD

The afternoon Speed Dat(a)ing Sessions highlight the work of 12 Department investigators representing a broad range of scientific interests. 

We are honored to have Dr. David Kupfer, Professor of Psychiatry and Clinical and Translational Science, as our keynote speaker for this year’s event.

Register early and join us!  Visit the Research Day page on our website to download a registration form.

If you have any questions, please contact Jeanie Knox Houtsinger (Email: knoxjv@upmc.edu; Telephone: 412-246-6784).

 


 

 

Postdoctoral trainees face many challenges as they pursue their goal of becoming independent investigators.  To help these early career investigators successfully make that transition, the Department of Psychiatry offers extensive training and support to optimize their chances of success in launching and maintaining a research career.  An important component of that support is the Career and Research Development (CARD) Seminar Series.


Drs. Robert Sweet and Brooke Molina

Led by co-directors Drs. Robert Sweet and Brooke Molina, the weekly CARD Seminar is designed to promote professional, career development and grantsmanship skills.

Participants are postdoctoral scholars and associates within the Department of Psychiatry working in methodologies and disciplines ranging from basic science to health services research. The seminar promotes the development of knowledge and skills in transdisciplinary collaboration, and thus translational, science.

The seminar focuses on activities leading to a successful first faculty appointment and federal grant application, and includes both didactic and activity-based learning experiences. Drs. Sweet and Molina have engaged accomplished early stage and mid-career faculty to co-teach seminar topics and to enhance trainee access to faculty throughout the continuum of career development trajectories.  This innovative program also provides “critical mass” for activity-based learning experiences focusing on practical tasks such as peer review of research proposals and for development of effective peer-support networks. Resources and materials for each class are posted on an intranet SharePoint site.

The CARD seminar and Writing Block offer a unique and helpful forum for postdocs to learn more about grant submission processes and areas of professional development that are especially important for this stage, such as networking, strategies for optimizing your postdoctoral experience, and preparing for next-steps beyond the postdoctoral fellowship," said Dr. Rachel Kolko.  "It is a great way to meet up with other postdocs and get to know additional faculty members in the Department of Psychiatry!"

The course is currently organized into alternating blocks of plenary and smaller workgroup sessions.  To keep content fresh and relevant, the curriculum is adapted each year to meet the needs and interests of the current participants. 

Early plenary sessions cover topics pertaining to the launching of a research career, such as the timing of selected activities early in the career trajectory.  Special attention is given to discussion of funding opportunities and fit with career goals.  Later plenary sessions focus on topics related to enhancing professional and personal skills and grantsmanship. For the smaller workgroup sessions, postdocs are divided into thematically related groups of trainees who are preparing applications for funding. Led by 2-3 faculty each, these small groups provide extensive review of evolving drafts and thereby hands-on tutoring in grant writing. 

"The CARD seminar is comprehensive, factors in the timeline from the start of your postdoc to K award preparation/submission, and gleans from the experience of a variety of panel members across different stages in their career,” said Dr. Millie Rincón-Cortés, who regularly attends the seminars. “This enables postdocs to grow professionally and motivates them to be proactive about their future career prospects.”

Seminar participants are also encouraged to participate in the annual Department of Psychiatry Research Day, which highlights the research accomplishments of the Department’s trainees.  The event provides participants with the opportunity to hone their presentation skills, share their research interests with others, and expose the trainees to additional faculty in our large transdisciplinary department.

To learn more about the CARD seminar and the other resources and support that the Department of Psychiatry offers postdoctoral trainees, click here.

 



Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders

Under the leadership of Service Chief Martin Lubetsky, MD, and faculty members Benjamin Handen, PhD and John McGonigle, PhD, the Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders provides excellent clinical services and also serves as an important environment for research and training.

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects about one out of every 68 children, and boys are almost five times more likey to be identified with autism than girls. Individuals with autism have difficulties with social interaction and communication, and unusual or intense interests or repetitive behaviors.

The Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC (WPIC) under the leadership of Martin Lubetsky, MD, Chief of the Center and of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Services, is one of 17 national locations of the Autism Treatment Network and serves as Western Pennsylvania’s Regional Autism, Services, Education, Resources and Training Center.  However, the Center’s impact reaches well beyond Western Pennsylvania. 

“What sets this program apart from others is the comprehensive evidence-based assessment and treatment approach to treating individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder across the lifespan,” said Dr. Lubetsky, “Teaching trainees, implementing clinical research, and providing tools and resources for parents really is what makes the Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders unique from other programs.”


Under the leadership of Service Chief Martin Lubetsky, MD, and faculty members Benjamin Handen, PhD and John McGonigle, PhD, the Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders provides excellent clinical services and also serves as an important environment for research and training.

Through the efforts of Department of Psychiatry faculty and the Center’s dedicated clinicians and support staff, the program has garnered national and international attention for its educational, clinical and research activities.  For example, in October 2013, John McGonigle, PhD, traveled to Moscow, Russia, at the invitation of leaders coordinating the 2013 International Forum on Autism, to share his expertise on behavior assessments and management of autism across the lifespan and educating students with autism in the classroom.   Drs. Martin Lubetsky, Benjamin Handen, and John McGonigle collaborated on the book Autism Spectrum Disorder as part of the Pittsburgh Pocket Psychiatry Series published by Oxford University Press.  The book is used as part of the educational curriculum and a resource in many training programs across the United States. 

The Center provides an excellent environment for research designed to help individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families.  The Merck Inpatient Unit recently received a three-year national accreditation from the National Association on Dual Diagnosis (NADD) and the children and adolescents group was selected to join the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Inpatient Research Collaborative, a national effort of six specialized inpatient units, to develop best practice pathways for assessment and treatment with initial support from the Simons Foundation and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation.  With support from the Health Research Services Administration, Benjamin Handen, PhD is investigating the efficacy of a medication to decrease weight gain in children who are prescribed atypical antipsychotic medications (which often leads to significant weight gain) in the Merck Child and Adolescent Outpatient Clinic.  The Autism Treatment Network, under the direction of Dr. Handen and with support from the national Autism Speaks initiative, is dedicated to developing and implementing evidence-based assessment and treatment strategies for children, adolescents and adults with autism. 

The most effective treatment and care for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder starts in early childhood, with treatment starting in some children as young as 18 months. The Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders has a range of programs and services for children including inpatient and outpatient, early intervention programs such as Autism Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention, and Theiss  Early Autism Preschool Program, and summer programs offering intensive day treatment and therapeutic inclusion services. 

To meet the needs of adults living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the Center also offers a range of programs and services for adults including the Merck Adult Outpatient Clinic, Vocational Training Center and Supported Employment Program, and Merck Inpatient Unit for adults.   

To learn more about the Center and accessing their services, click here.

 


 

Clinician Educator Faculty Development Program

The Clinician Educator Faculty Development Program is an innovative career development program tailored specifically for newer Department of Psychiatry physician faculty at the Assistant Professor-level who are clinicians, educators and/or administrators.

Drs Alex Fertig and 

James Tew Jr.
Drs. Alexis Fertig and James Tew, Jr.

Led by James Tew, Jr., MD, Director, and Alexis Fertig, MD, Associate Director, the program aims to enhance the careers of our clinician educators through a series of activities including: facilitating effective mentoring teams; providing didactic materials relevant to career development; and fostering a peer network to support career growth and the attainment of career goals.

The structure of this unique program involves monthly one-hour meetings facilitated by the directors of the program and features presentations and discussions on a host of relevant topics. Participants are also encouraged to share their experiences and projects within the group at these meetings, and discuss mentor-mentee relationships, strategies for career development, and identifying new opportunities for professional growth. In addition to Drs. Tew and Fertig, the Clinician Educator Faculty Development Program is also supported by an advisory group strongly committed to the career development of our clinician educators. The advisory group consists of Karen Matthews, PhD, Kenneth Nash, MD, MMM, Lalith Solai, MD and Lori Zippay, Academic Administrator.

Participants are asked to commit to the program for a two-year period, during which time they will attend monthly meetings, establish a mentoring team, and identify and work on an academic project or initiative that falls within their individual goals for their own career development. The Department of Psychiatry established the program in 2011 and celebrated the graduation of the first group of clinician educator faculty members who successfully completed this program in January 2014. Monthly meetings for the new class of clinician educator program participants will begin in early 2014.


2014 Graduating Class of the Clinician Educator Faculty Development Program with Program Faculty
and Department Chairman, Dr. David Lewis

Participants in the program have been actively involved in the planning and implementation of the Annual Clinician Educator Showcase sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC (WPIC). This annual event highlights innovative clinical practices and teaching methods, features sessions on support and strategies for career advancement for individuals in the clinician educator pathway, and celebrates the many accomplishments of the department’s dedicated clinician educators.

For more information about the Clinician Educator Faculty Development Program, please contact Dr. Tew at tewxjd@upmc.edu or Dr. Fertig at fertigam@upmc.edu.

 


In the Spotlight
Clinical Psychology Internship Program


Pictured Above: Brian Thoma, PhD; Isaac Petersen, PhD, Rachel Salk, PhD
Sophia Choukas Bradley, PhD; Jennifer Forsyth, PhD.

 

What are your impressions of the clinical psychology internship program?

JF: I think it’s one of the best internships in the country; the clinical training is excellent and you get very strong research training and opportunities in a really supportive environment.

SCB: I 100% agree; I knew the program had an outstanding reputation but it wasn’t until I came and interviewed - and certainly more so being an intern here - that I understood just how strong both the clinical training and research training are in both breadth and depth. It’s just been a phenomenal experience.

IP: I would also add that it’s a very strongly individualized training model; we have many choices in terms of the clinical rotations that we can do and it’s not a “one-size-fits-all” model.

BT: I too think it’s one of the best programs in the country. One of the really lovely things about this program is that we get fantastic training both clinically and in research. The expectations are quite reasonable and I feel like I’ve been able to maintain a high quality of life during internship as well, which is not the case with many of my friends who are also on internship right now at other sites.

 

How did this program fit with your interests?

BT: I plan on pursuing an academic research career and my research interests are pretty specific. I research lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health, mostly among adolescents. I was really looking for a program that would allow me to tailor my training experiences to these areas and that was difficult to find with a lot of programs. I love this program because it allowed me to do rotations across the lifespan as well, and I wouldn’t have been able to engage clinically with all of those populations at any other site at which I interviewed.

SCB: I also want to be an academic researcher. I also have a focus on adolescent mental health and physical health, broadly speaking, with a focus on adolescent girls and young women. I really wanted clinical training that spans the lifespan as well, and this was one of the only internships where I could get the full range of clinical training experience. The Pittsburgh Girls Study is a phenomenal study that has followed girls longitudinally from age five to their twenties with data that almost all of us could use for our research goals. I’m very excited to stay here for postdoctoral training and potentially beyond that as well as an academic researcher.

JF: I’m also planning for an academic research career. The main reasons I chose WPIC were because I study neurobiology and severe mental illness, I knew I would be able to tailor my experiences very well at WPIC. One thing that gets communicated from the get-go, and that’s very true here, is that the intentions of the program are to really foster your development in the long run.

IP: I’m also aiming for an academic research career and I felt that I really wanted a strong year of clinical training. WPIC has an incredible research base - the sheer number of people here doing amazing research and being successful in getting grants, but WPIC does not deemphasize the importance of clinical training. It’s really an important clinical year and that was really attractive to me.

JF: Can I add something to that? One thing that I think is also interesting about WPIC, and maybe somewhat unique, is even though this is a clinical year for us, because WPIC is such a strong research institution there is constant discussion around K Awards, how to get grant funding, workshops. Even though most of our hours during the week are more on the clinical side, all of these resources are available to us and I think we’ve all taken advantage of them. The education we receive on grant writing and what that process will look like is pretty unique at WPIC.

 

Besides the fit for your interests, what else made you choose the Pittsburgh Psychology Internship program?

JF: The interns seemed really happy. I’ve known people from my program that came here that loved it here. When I interviewed that was really clear. I felt very confident that people really enjoyed their internship experience.

BT: I think the biggest one for me was matching with a potential research mentor. I’m working with Mike Marshal who does research with LGBT adolescents and that’s exactly the research that I’ve been doing. I think the possibility not only to work with him and collaborate during the internship, but the opportunities for postdoc here really drew me to the program.  You get to be supported by fantastic faculty mentorship as you forge your career, not just during the internship but during postdoc and beyond as well.

SCB: This is a unique program. Of course WPIC cannot guarantee that interns can stay for postdoctoral fellowships, but in recent years my understanding is that anyone who wanted to stay has been able to. That was true for the class above us and for our class. Just seeing the number of people who have decided to stay after coming here for internship was the greatest testament to how happy people are. Whether people stay here forever or move on to other careers, this is a place that really launches peoples’ very illustrious and happy careers.

 

How has the internship helped you grow as a clinician?  

SCB: We all design our own clinical training curriculum, so there’s great flexibility. I’ve really appreciated the ability to have a pretty even split between child and adult clients, and then within the child category to have really young kids up to adolescents. I have the ability to do outpatient care, intensive outpatient care (I haven’t done partial, but there are many partial programs), and inpatient care. I get to work at all these different levels of care and work with people from almost every diagnostic category.

JF: By being able to tailor your experience, you can really work on many multidisciplinary teams. You’re working directly with the psychiatrist, with social workers, and with residents so you really get a broader view of the clinical care that patients receive. You also get to work both in group and individual therapy.

BT: I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of training in areas directly related to my research interests that will continue to inform my research in the future. For example, right now I’m doing outpatient psychotherapy that we call “gender-coaching” with transgender adolescents and young adults at the adolescent medicine clinic, and that’s an opportunity that I don’t think I would have had at any other site in the country. I also might be working with Dr. Douaihy in HIV care as well in addition to the dual diagnosis rotation that I’ll do with him. So everyone is very supportive of forging a new path. If it’s in your line of interest and you can get someone to agree to supervise you, the possibilities of your rotations seem limitless here.

IP: I’ve seen lots of things I have never seen, and likely would not have seen had I been at other internship sites. There are clinics like the child OCD clinic. There are very few clinics for OCD in children across the country, so that was an incredible opportunity.

 

How would you describe our institutional climate and reputation?

SCB: Nationally it has a stellar reputation. I think it’s really notable that there are only five clinical psychology interns a year, yet many of the top researchers I know nationally did their internship here. So certainly it has a wonderful reputation within psychology and – from my understanding - psychiatry too.

BT: One thing I can say that speaks to the reputation of the internship program within the institution, is that on rotations interns are welcomed with open arms because our reputation precedes us. I’ve had really wonderful experiences as I’ve gone throughout the institution, and the different clinics that people are really happy to see us and really excited to work with us. This has made for a very rewarding training experience in each of the clinics.

SCB: I agree. Psychology in general is very well-respected, there seems to be a good relationship between psychology and psychiatry where many of the psychiatry faculty are psychologists, and I often don’t know if someone has a PhD in psychology or an MD in psychiatry. I’ve heard that at other institutions that’s not always the case. That’s another wonderful part of the institutional climate here.

 

What are you impressions of our faculty?

BT: I’ve had fantastic experiences with the faculty, including my individual research mentor. Also, because there are only five of us every year, I feel that especially Drs. Michele Levine and Tina Goldstein (the program directors) are so invested in ensuring we get the training that we’re looking for, and get on the trajectory that we want to be on professionally. Having two training directors who are so invested in the interns has been invaluable in that they have really been able to get to know me on a personal level and understand my career goals. They will also go out of their way to make sure that they can do that for us.

IP: At WPIC we get to work with the leaders in the field. Tina Goldstein, our co-director, recently won a presidential award for her research! I think that that’s a microcosm of the research climate here, I get to work with people who have been very successful in getting NIH grants or other funding mechanisms, so it’s an ideal place if you want to conduct collaborative multidisciplinary research that’s aiming to improve public health

SCB: I really do feel that all the faculty with whom I’ve had the privilege to work here are both outstanding researchers and outstanding clinicians, and many of them still see clients clinically even though for funding purposes they don’t need to. I also really like that the people with whom I work most closely did their internship here such that they are very supportive throughout the year and understand that we’re balancing clinical and research work as well as maintaining quality of life.

JF: Everyone from the program is invested in us from the get-go and I think part of that is because so many people do stay here. The institution clearly sees us as people to invest in for the long run, regardless of whether people do stay here for postdoc or go elsewhere. That just pervades all of our experiences here. We receive all the information required to build the most rewarding experience during the year. Right off the bat it gets communicated.

BT: We can tailor our schedules in line with the clinical training that we’re hoping for, and I feel that Tina and Michelle did such a wonderful job of making sure we were also doing it in a way that would support quality of life throughout the internship year too. For some of the rotations I wanted to do, they encouraged me to balance them with another specific rotation so that my workload was balanced throughout each quarter. From the get-go they were looking out for us.

SCB: Michelle and Tina are just the warmest, most supportive, wonderful people. In addition to supporting our decisions about clinical training for the year and finding research mentors, we’re encouraged, for example, to have a full 4-6 weeks to meet with as many research faculty as we want and find the best match for us. I think our collective anxiety was remarkably low because they were so reassuring. I just can’t speak highly enough about the training, and the leadership of this program.

 

How would you advise someone who was thinking about applying to this program?

BT: If you’re looking for a program that’s devoted to a clinical science framework even during the internship year when it’s mainly clinically focused, this program is ideal; you do get fantastic clinical training and you never lose sight of your goals in terms of academic research.

SCB: There are other incredible internships that have that blend of strong clinical training and strong research training, but I’m not aware of one that has the level of flexibility paired with the strength of clinical and research training. I think this is a program to strongly consider if you want to be able to tailor your clinical year in a way that fits your interests. Pittsburgh is a city that I love, and the institution is a place where I could really find a home. I think it’s something to consider when you’re applying.

IP: Focus on fit and if it’s a good fit clinically- and research-wise, this is the best place to be.

 

Pittsburgh is consistently ranked as one of the top places to live and work. Can you comment on Pittsburgh’s livability?  

IP: I would say that I had the stereotype that Pittsburgh would be an old, dirty, steel city. But when I arrived I was completely surprised by how beautiful it was.

BT: I love Pittsburgh in a lot of ways. My husband and I were able to buy a house when we moved here for internship, and that’s something that would not have been anywhere near attainable in any other city that I was looking at for internship.

IP: I came from a small college town in Indiana, and I would say if you’re questioning coming to Pittsburgh, don’t. It’s a wonderful city, it’s affordable. We as a team and the co-directors have really emphasized quality of life and have scheduled social events together and we have happy hours. There’s so much to do in Pittsburgh. You can really take advantage of its affordability during your internship year, unlike many places where you’re getting the same salary.

SCB: I have lived in Chapel Hill, rural Maryland and then several cities, including Boston, Providence, DC, and I just love this city. It’s a city that people who haven’t been here love to hate and then when my friends come they get really angry about their life choices, especially those who live in Manhattan, when they see that a three bedroom apartment is less than their tiny studio that they share with roommates.  I can’t overemphasize enough how important the low cost of living is for quality of life during internship and postdoc, and there really is a tremendous amount to do. Pittsburgh is often called the city of neighborhoods; it’s made up of several different neighborhoods that each have their own unique personality and culture. There’s a really exciting sports scene for people who enjoy that. A lot of people are really into hiking and kayaking around here. There is a really fun nightlife scene in general which is, again, way less expensive than in other places and easier to get around too.

JF: I came from Los Angeles, a really big city, and I had a lot of concerns about coming to a small to medium sized city. I would say that Pittsburgh is very vibrant and it does have everything that you need. It’s also very accessible, and so like everyone has said, there is a good nightlife, there’s a lot of new restaurants, it’s a growing and changing city that I think is increasingly catering to people that are of a younger demographic. There are a lot of trendy restaurants and trendy bars that are popping up more and more so it’s a great city to be in.

 


 

Dr. Antoine Douaihy Collaborates with Medical Students and Residents to
Develop First Guide on Motivational Interviewing for Medical Trainees

Dr. Antoine Douaihy (back row, center) worked with psychiatry residents and medical students to develop the first Motivational Interviewing guide of its kind for medical trainees.

 

Motivational Interviewing has transformed how physicians engage with patients, families, and colleagues, and is one of the most powerful tools available to promote behavior change in patients. It has become particularly important in an age where behavior change is no longer limited to substance use or the field of psychiatry, but is also used to help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity. MotivationaI Interviewing and its adaptations have also been studied by more and more researchers in the behavioral health field. This technique has become an established evidence-based approach to help people change the outcomes of their illnesses and the course of their lives.

In order to enhance the broad utilization of Motivational Interviewing, Dr. Antoine Douaihy led the development of a novel training book on the topic. Dr. Douaihy is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and also serves as a Co-Director of the Office of Residency Training and Director of the Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship Program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC (WPIC). Dr. Douaihy’s expertise is in the areas of training and research in substance use disorders and the psychology of change, particularly with regard to Motivational Interviewing.

When Dr. Douaihy and his faculty colleagues, Drs. Thomas Kelly and Melanie Gold, decided to create a clinically useful toolkit on Motivational Interviewing for medical trainees, they reached out to medical students and residents to engage them in the collaborative process.

“The initial idea of the book originated from a collective brainstorming process involving many medical trainees from the University of Pittsburgh who have been trained in Motivational Interviewing and are practicing it,” said Dr. Douaihy, “At its core, the key strength, originality and innovation of this book is that it was inspired by and written by medical trainees for medical trainees.”

The result is the first Motivational Interviewing guide of its kind - Motivational Interviewing: A Guide for Medical Trainees recently published by the Oxford University Press. The book, written in an easy-to-read, practical and personal style, is filled with skillfully crafted clinical scenarios, tools, tips, and personal reflections of trainees illustrating the experiences and challenges of learning and implementing Motivational Interviewing in medical encounters. The guide has received very positive reviews since its publication. As one reviewer remarked, “this book will become an essential text for the generation of future physicians that will have to undoubtedly deal with the challenges of behavior change in medical practice."

 


 

The Department of Psychiatry has created several new resources to assist researchers in the appropriate conduct of research involving human subjects. These Department-specific resources recognize the importance and increasing complexity of human subjects research, and the particular challenges that face new investigators. Department efforts will be led by Christopher M. Ryan, Ph.D., former Director of the University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board, and Co-Director of the CTSI Regulatory Knowledge and Support Core. New resources include:

  1. Individual consultation during the career development award (K) review process. These consultations will focus on developing effective study designs and recruitment strategies that minimize risk to subjects and are consistent with IRB regulatory requirements and ethical principles.  Dr. Ryan will assist K award candidates in preparing the Human Subjects section of the application, developing consent forms and recruitment materials, and completing IRB OSIRIS applications.
  2. A Human Subjects workshop, offered 2 to 3 times a year, on preparation of consent forms and Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocols.  Workshops are targeted to new faculty members and to K award applicants who have submitted their applications. These small group workshops will include an overview of DHHS, FDA and University requirements for consent forms and IRB-other relevant documents, as well as review and discussion of those materials previously found to be effective by our local researchers.  Outcomes include preparation of consent documents, recruitment materials and an OSIRIS application for each participant’s planned or ongoing research study.
  3. Individualized formal (or informal) consultation on a range of topics related to the conduct of human subjects research. These consultations are open to all faculty and post-doctoral fellows, and may include, but are not limited to:
  • New study start-up support to ensure that key materials (e.g., manual of operations; inclusion/exclusion checklists; regulatory binders; etc.) are available and good clinical research practice guidelines are being followed.
  • Advice on completing OSIRIS applications, including the preparation of justifications for different types of waivers, and assistance in addressing special population issues, participant payments, recruitment strategies, data sharing plans, etc.
  • Development/revision of consent forms and recruitment materials
  • Training on good research practices, including optimal consent processes, for all members of the research team
  • Addressing human subjects related questions that arise during the preparation of a grant application, a study protocol, or an IRB OSIRIS application

In addition to the new initiatives described above, the University of Pittsburgh’s IRB and Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) also provide important resources designed to assist investigators in the preparation of research proposals, IRB applications, and the conduct of their research:

 

For consultation or more information, e-mail Dr. Christopher Ryan at ryancm@upmc.edu.


 

Dr. Hipwell - Pittsburgh Girls Study

Dr. Alison Hipwell has devoted her academic career to studying female development and women’s health issues. She began her career as a Psychiatric Nursing Assistant in an inpatient unit for children at a London psychiatric hospital after earning an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Now, as a Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Hipwell is leading a program of intergenerational research built on the 16-year longitudinal Pittsburgh Girls Study, an innovative program dedicated to the long-term study of inner-city girls’ social, behavioral and emotional development.

Since joining the faculty in 2001, Dr. Hipwell has led and collaborated on a series of studies focusing on precursors and developmental trajectories of psychopathology, conduct disorder, depression, female development, and sexual risk taking. We talked with Dr. Hipwell about the challenges of a building a successful research career and how she’s expanded her research by building professional relationships with researchers who have scientific backgrounds very different from her own.

How have you built collaborations with other scientists? When I arrived in Pittsburgh in 2001, I was incredibly fortunate to join a group that has spawned several long-term, productive collaborations. These relationships have thrived on the complementary skills and expertise that we have each brought to a somewhat overlapping research agenda, but paramount has been the supportive friendships that these collaborations have engendered. In recent years, I have been more purposeful about identifying colleagues with distinct research interests from my own to collaborate on specific projects. Clearly there are rich pickings in the Department! It has been essential to make use of opportunities to learn about colleagues’ work via talks, seminars and the Annual Department of Psychiatry Research Day, and the process of reviewing others’ grant submissions has been invaluable. But discussing ideas over coffee is a good place to start. For me, there is no substitute for a strong personal connection to make the scientific process a more stimulating and enjoyable experience!

What is the most challenging aspect of being a researcher for you? Without doubt, one of the biggest challenges has been to learn how to juggle the responsibilities of conducting good science, managing resources, providing quality teaching and disseminating research findings, while also writing competitive grant proposals for future work.

What new projects are you excited to be working on? I am really excited about a new NIMH-funded study that Mary Phillips and I started a few months ago, which examines brain-behavior relationships underlying positive and negative emotionality in infants. In this project, we will recruit about 70 three-month-old infants to complete neuroimaging assessments in collaboration with colleagues at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The mothers of these infants are young adult participants of the Pittsburgh Girls Study whose own parenting experiences have been well characterized since childhood, and so this study also provides a unique opportunity to examine intergenerational transmission of risk. Our goal is to identify measures of prefrontal cortical-amygdala emotional processing and regulation neural circuitry associated with emotional reactivity at this critical stage in human neurodevelopment. We also aim to examine the predictive utility of these neuroimaging indices for later infant emotional regulation at nine months, and the ways in which maternal caregiving influences these brain-behavior relationships. The study logistics are certainly challenging (e.g. infants don’t always go to sleep when we would like them to), but we hope the end results will be well worth the hard work!

Are there political or social issues you feel passionate about? I have always felt strongly about the apparent acceptance of many forms of violence in our society, especially among children. It is perhaps not surprising given that we live in an age of unprecedented media use with relatively few filters, that many children are now exposed to a wide range of developmentally inappropriate stimuli. It has been particularly concerning to observe the apparent habituation and insensitivity to distressing scenes of physical aggression in preschool children. Violent images are now so commonplace that a request to change a TV channel showing violent content in a public place is often met with bemusement or dismissal. These kinds of experiences have made me reflect often on my dual responsibilities as a parent to protect my child’s innocence for as long as possible while also trying to promote resilience in a realistic way.

What do you do for fun/to relax? In addition to spending time with family and friends, I have always enjoyed travel and being outdoors. One of our favorite spots to go for the weekend is an area of designated wilderness in West Virginia to hike, camp and enjoy the views. In addition, I try to go to visual and performance arts events as much as possible, and have been enjoying the growing ‘foodie’ scene in the city during the past few years.

 


 

Psychosomatic Medicine Fellowship Program


The Department of Psychiatry is proud to announce the development and accreditation of a one-year Fellowship Program in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Led by Drs. Kurt Ackerman, Pierre Azzam, and Priya Gopalan, the Fellowship is a vital component of the Department’s long-standing commitment to scientific innovation, clinical excellence, and higher education at the interface of psychiatry and other medical disciplines.

Psychosomatic Medicine Fellows will gain experience through their service in a large academic psychiatry consultation program, and will obtain advanced training in several specialty areas including clinical neuroscience, women’s mental health, oncology, palliative care, transplantation, and HIV/AIDS. The program takes full advantage of the exceptional mentorship provided by enthusiastic and devoted Department of Psychiatry faculty representing diverse areas of expertise.

The Department of Psychiatry has forged strong relationships with numerous clinical programs throughout the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center that serve as training sites for Psychosomatic Medicine Fellows including:

  • The Psychiatry Consultation-Liaison Service at UPMC Presbyterian and Magee-Women’s Hospitals - Fellows will gain exposure to diverse and high-volume patient care with a wide array of medical, surgical, obstetrical-gynecological, and psychiatric presentations.

  • The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Care Institute – Through rotations in these programs, trainees will function as devoted psychiatric consultants within specialized oncology and palliative care teams.

  • The Starzl Transplantation Institute – Named in honor of transplant pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl, the Transplantation Institute will provide fellows with the opportunity to provide longitudinal psychiatric care to patients at various stages of transplantation and in an array of clinical settings.

  • The Pittsburgh AIDS Center for Treatment - Fellows will have the unique opportunity to collaborate with non-behavioral health providers as part of a multidisciplinary HIV-specialized clinic.

In addition to the invaluable experience they will gain in the programs listed above, fellowship participants also will take part in the Department’s extensive and eclectic education program that includes weekly didactic courses, case-based conferences, clinical supervision, individual mentorship, and completion of a personalized scholarly project.

Applications will be accepted through November 30, 2014 for positions commencing July 1, 2015. Click here for more information on the Psychosomatic Medicine Fellowship Program.


 

Program in the Spotlight
Services for Teens at Risk (STAR-Center)

Services for Teens at Risk (STAR-Center) is a specialty clinical, training, and research program of the Department of Psychiatry and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC. Founded in 1986 by David Brent, MD, and Mary Margaret Kerr, EdD, STAR-Center provides a comprehensive suicide prevention center and an Intensive Outpatient Program for teens and children. With support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the outpatient clinic has provided assessment and treatment for over 7,800 youth at risk for suicide. Since 2007 and in partnership with Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, STAR-Center has offered expanded programs to treat pre-teens for depression and children and adolescents suffering from anxiety. In recognition of an important clinical need in our community, STAR-Center now provides care for children and adolescents with post-concussion syndrome, which often includes sleep difficulties, demoralization, depression, and suicidal ideation and work closely with colleagues in Sports Medicine and Pediatric Neurology on the management of these youth. In addition to treatment, the Center provides opportunities for clinical training and innovative research, both of which contribute to the overall mission of addressing the pressing issues of youth suicide.

STAR-Center offers a range of clinical programs to support children, adolescents, and their families. Children and adolescents can come to the STAR-Center for assessment and evaluation of current and past psychiatric problems. For those who decide to continue treatment, the Center has options for cognitive behavior therapy and pharmacology as part of their outpatient treatment program. For those requiring more intensive care than weekly therapy, the STAR-Center Intensive Outpatient Program treats adolescents; this program uses dialectic behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy. The center offers a monthly educational group for parents of children with depression and holds support groups for adults as well as youth who have lost a family member or loved one to suicide. Dr. Brent and his colleagues have recently launched a new program for youth and their families who will be graduating high school to help them learn to take responsibility for their own treatment in order to minimize the risk for relapse during the sometimes stressful transition to college or other post-high school activities.

A leading program in the field of youth suicide intervention, STAR-Center also provides an array of training and educational services to students, schools, community organizations, and mental health agencies. Kim Poling, LCSW, who serves as the Clinical Program Manager for STAR, has overseen training of numerous trainees in the assessment and management of youth at risk for suicide. Graduate and post-graduate students are eligible to participate in electives, offered for the Master, PhD, resident, and research fellow levels. The University of Pittsburgh also sponsors a graduate-level course on cognitive behavioral therapy taught by one current and one former STAR-center staff members. In addition to their work with trainees, STAR-Center provides resources for both families and professionals, such as handbooks and manuals on the topics of suicide treatment, living with depression, anxiety, and more. The Center also provides training programs and workshops such as community awareness education and postvention activities for schools following a suicide event.


Kim Poling, LCSW and David Brent, MD

At the foundation of the culture of the STAR-Center is the commitment to the importance of continued research to better understand the treatment and prevention of depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior.

“STAR-Center has supported six major NIMH-funded clinical trials on the treatment and prevention of adolescent depression, child and adolescent anxiety, and adolescent suicidal behavior, and several other studies to understand the etiology of suicidal behavior,” said Dr. Brent, “One exciting new venture will be to develop a brief, inpatient intervention for suicidal youth to decrease recurrence of suicidal behavior and improve the transition to outpatient care.” Therefore, in addition to providing evidence-based treatment for youth with depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior, STAR-Center also adds to the evidence base and helps to improve our understanding of the cause and treatment of at-risk children and adolescents.

Visit the STAR Center website to learn more about this innovative program and the clinical and educational services available.


The Neuroscience Clinical and Translational Research Center (N-CTRC)

The Neuroscience Clinical and Translational Research Center (N- CTRC), is a valuable resource for researchers from a variety of disciplines. Located on the 13th floor of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), the Center offers investigators a number of services including:

  • Investigational drug administration
  • Polysomnography (in-lab and in-home)
  • Sleep deprivation studies
  • Psychiatric assessments
  • Psychophysiological assessments (blood pressure, electroencephalography, 15-lead electrocardiography, heart rate, temperature, oximetry)
  • Specimen collection (blood, saliva, urine)

Facilities include five participant bedrooms, two time-isolation suites, a nurses' station, a sleep-recording control room, a treatment room, study preparation area, and patient lounge. Three bedrooms are equipped with IV ports for medication administration and blood sampling.

All patient rooms provide electroencephalography sleep, electrocardiography (EKG), respiration, oxyhemoglobin saturation, periodic limb movements, heart rate and heart-rate variability, core body temperature, skin temperature, mood, and performance monitoring capability. In addition, rooms are equipped to conduct Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (C-PAP) evaluations. Nursing personnel are available to conduct participant assessments, blood draws, 12-lead EKGs, participant monitoring during positron emission tomography procedures, and other nursing functions. The N-CTRC also has a pupillometer and eye-tracker. Electrophysiological equipment is supported by qualified systems and electronics specialists.

 

Hours of Operation

Polysomnography and overnight rooms are available 24 hours daily based on protocol needs.

Outpatient Nursing is provided from 6:00 am to 3:30 pm Monday through Friday. Additional hours are available upon request.

 

Contact

To learn more about how the Center can offer in terms of your own research projects, we invite you to contact the N-CTRC Manager, Christina Nicassio (Telephone: 412-246-6407; Email: nicassiocv@upmc.edu).


 

 

The University of Pittsburgh Sleep Medicine Institute (UPSMI) is an integrated, multi-disciplinary program encompassing research, teaching, and clinical care. 

Under the leadership of Dr. David Kupfer (Director) and Drs. Daniel Buysse and Patrick Strollo, Jr. (Co-Directors), the UPSMI leverages the talent, infrastructure and resources of the University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and its partners to offer unique multidisciplinary training opportunities for young researchers, to support collaborative research initiatives across the lifespan with investigators from a wide range of disciplines, and to help translate promising new treatments into practice. 

 

 


David J. Kupfer, MD

Daniel J Buysse, MD

Patrick Strollo Jr, MD

 

The UPSMI coordinates activities of the Sleep Research Network, a consortium of CTSA institutions established in 2007 to promote multidisciplinary research collaborations that address significant public health and mechanistic questions related to sleep medicine. The network was created to promote and facilitate collaborative projects in sleep medicine, and to attract and support the training of the next generation of sleep medicine investigators. The network comprises researchers representing 40 of the current 60 CTSA institutions across the United States.

UPSMI activities focus on four core areas:  research, training, clinical interactions, and community outreach.  The Institute’s focus on the complex associations between sleep, health, and disease brings together experts engaged in research, clinical care, and educational programs throughout the University’s Schools of the Health Sciences. The UPSMI helps to coordinate sleep medicine activities across the University, including: one of the top three NIH-funded sleep research faculties in the United States;  an NIH-funded T32 training program in multidisciplinary, translational sleep medicine; the UPMC Sleep Center; and an ACGME-accredited clinical sleep medicine fellowship program.

Please visit the websites for the University of Pittsburgh Sleep Medicine Institute (www.sleep.pitt.edu) and the Sleep Research Network (www.sleepresearchnetwork.org) to learn more.