April 30, 2019

UAMS Addiction Training Program Awarded $2.1 Million

By Tim Taylor

The award marks the second time the program has been renewed by NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), since it began at UAMS in 2009. The program has received a total of $6 million in NIH funding. The award provides stipends as well as tuition and training-related and travel expenses for eight to 12 trainees in the area of addiction research.

Seen as a response to the rapidly changing landscape of drug abuse, the program has brought in more than 60 young researchers looking for solutions to an ever-increasing problem. Pre-doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students and residents, and summer interns have all become part of the program’s diverse approach to translational training in addiction. The trainees have relied on more than 20 faculty mentors from three colleges, six departments and two institutes at UAMS to provide them with the tools to become leaders in the field of addiction science.

“This program is a wonderful tool and a huge boon to UAMS,” said Clint Kilts, Ph.D., director of the Brain Imaging Research Center and head of the program since 2012. “We’ve built a network of mentors, which allows us to provide multiple perspectives to the trainees. They have allowed these young people to challenge conventional thinking when it comes to addiction.”

The NIDA addiction research training program is one of only two NIH T32 awards in Arkansas, the other one housed within the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UAMS College of Medicine. NIDA funds 55 similar T32 training programs across the country.

“The T32 is a wonderful career development tool designed to create well-trained scientists who are increasingly placed in leading academic faculty positions,” said Kilts, also a professor in the College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry.

Kilts said 14 former program trainees have gone on to become faculty members, including six at UAMS.

One of these is UAMS’ Corey Hayes, Pharm.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry. Hayes is overseeing the UAMS AR-IMPACT (Improving Multi-disciplinary Pain Care and Treatment) program. AR-IMPACT is a partnership with UAMS, the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas State Medical Board working with the state’s physicians to reduce their patients’ dependence on opioid painkillers.

“The program gave me protected time to form and mold state and national level collaborations that have accelerated my career trajectory,” said Hayes. “It also exposed me to many areas of addition research, providing a solid foundation in the work being done to combat addiction.”

Kilts, along with the program’s associate co-directors, Michael Cucciare, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry, and Bill Fantegrossi, Ph.D., of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, has seen the program expand into a rapidly responding model based on translational research opportunities.

“It’s the unique trainee outcomes that matters in the end,” said Kilts. “The participants are very team oriented and that will help them build significant collaborative teams in the future capable of providing prevention and treatment solutions for the immense public health problem posed by addiction.”

The UAMS NIDA T32 training program is unique in that it relies on a connected network of 25 faculty members from six departments at UAMS — Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Pharmacy Evaluation and PracticePharmaceutical ScienceNeurobiology and Developmental Neuroscience, and Health Behavior and Health Education, to mentor the young research scientists.