$1.7 million NIH grant to Public Health will build research skills while helping adolescents

USF graduate students and community professionals will gain stronger research skills for addressing drug abuse and other behavioral health problems in children and adolescents with the help of a $1.72 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The 5-year grant supports a project called the Institute for Translational Research Education in Adolescent Drug Abuse and focuses on translational research methods, policies and perspectives, and the practical skills of participatory research, said Julie Baldwin, PhD, principal investigator, and professor in the Department of Community and Family Health in the USF College of Public Health. Co-investigators are Bruce Lubotsky Levin, DrPH, associate professor and curriculum director, Tom Massey, PhD, associate professor and evaluation director, and Donna Burton, Ed.M., research assistant professor and project director, all of whom are faculty in the USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences. Drs. Levin and Massey are also joint faculty in the Department of Community and Family Health, and Ms. Burton is a doctoral candidate in the department.

photo of Dr. Julie Baldwin, Dr. Bruce Lubotsky Levin, Dr. Tom Massey, and Donna Burton.

From left, Dr. Tom Massey, Dr. Julie Baldwin, Dr. Bruce Lubotsky Levin, and Donna Burton.

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.  Trainees will earn graduate college credit (15 hours) fully paid by the grant, culminating with the awarding of a graduate certificate.  Further, this NIDA grant and the graduate certificate program serves as an additional research component of the Graduate Studies in Behavioral Health Program, a collaborative teaching and research initiative between the USF College of Public Health and the USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

Central to the project is its community-based team mentoring approach, which includes community, service-based mentors, academic mentors, and national mentors, Dr. Baldwin said.

“This group of mentors will guide trainees in the latest science of alcohol, tobacco, other drug (ATOD) prevention, intervention and sustainability with an added emphasis on translational issues of evidence based practices (EBPs),” Dr. Massey said. 

Training sites will include agencies in the community for whom child and adolescent behavioral health is of interest.  Training will include an annual conference bringing together experts in the etiology and epidemiology of adolescent behavioral health (including ATOD and other emotional and behavioral disorders of childhood), and experts in translational science and implementation of EBPs. 

“For all program participants, the core curricula will include a Capstone Project, conceptualized during the first semester of the graduate certificate program, based upon course presentations of problems, issues, and trends in epidemiology of child and adolescent drug use and mental disorders, and guided by each mentoring team,” Dr. Levin said.

“Program participants will have four full semesters to conceptualize, plan, and complete their Capstone Projects, resulting in graduate level research initiatives that represent meaningful and cutting-edge applied research and academic development in the content areas selected,” Ms. Burton said. “When complete, students will present their Capstone Projects at the annual conference.”

Examples of applicable projects might include: evaluation of existing implementation projects within community programs; development of a grant proposal that addresses implementation of an evidence-based practice in a clinical setting; or the design of a research project that would enhance community-based clinical programming.

The ultimate goal of this grant is to develop, cultivate, and disseminate an innovative model of research education that addresses best practices for translational research in the field of child and adolescent drug use and co-occurring disorders.

“By fostering collaboration, team-building, and cross-disciplinary approaches, researchers’ knowledge of EBPs and skills in delivering EBPs in community settings are enhanced, which ensures that interventions are more effective and accessible,” Dr. Baldwin said. “Furthermore, we will strive to create greater awareness among researchers and educators regarding the impact of practice on the evidence base.”

Story by Sarah A. Worth, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications