Dr. Karen Alexander Receives Promotion to Research Scientist

FRI is pleased to announce that Dr. Karen Alexander has been promoted from an Assistant Research Scientist to a Research Scientist, effective September 1, 2023. Dr. Alexander joined FRI in August of 2021. Since that time, she has contributed to a number of studies conducted at FRI, while pursuing her own research. She currently serves as the site PI for a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Clinical Trials Network study, which seeks to prevent opioid use disorder among at-risk patients in primary care. She also serves as Co-I on a study from the Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts that is focused on creating and disseminating educational content for healthcare providers related to reducing stigma and improving treatment engagement and recovery for birthing people who use drugs. In addition, she serves as a Co-I on a NIDA-funded UG3 award designed to enhance and finalize the development of a mobile app for individuals on community supervision (probation/parole) with substance use disorder who are enrolled in outpatient treatment. Dr. Alexander has also served as an MPI on a National Institute on Aging (NIA) Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) study, which developed a prototype mobile app for African American caregivers designed to reduce caregiver stress, depression, and anxiety. Recently, as an MPI, she received a Phase II SBIR award from NIA to enhance and finalize Phase I app development and evaluate its effectiveness in a randomized controlled trial.

FRI would like to congratulate Dr. Alexander on this notable achievement and wishes her a productive career with FRI.

FRI Welcomes New Assistant Research Scientist Dr. Ginnie Sawyer-Morris

FRI is pleased to announce that Dr. Ginnie Sawyer-Morris has accepted a position as an Assistant Research Scientist with the organization. Dr. Sawyer-Morris is an early career research scientist with experience designing, implementing, and evaluating public health interventions addressing health disparities and addiction. Her research interests are health equity-focused and currently center on the design, use, and evaluation of digital health tools (e.g., data dashboards, digital health apps, digital therapeutics) with the aim of improving healthcare access and quality for historically underrepresented populations, specifically individuals with justice involvement and substance use disorder.

Dr. Sawyer-Morris completed her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the University of Delaware with a specialized focus in advanced quantitative methodology and addiction science. She was a Dr. James A. Ferguson Emerging Infectious Diseases Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, where she explored novel applications of unsupervised, non-linear machine learning models (e.g., autoencoder) in health disparities research. She applied this training in her dissertation research using machine learning to explore gender differences in SUD recovery beyond early stages of treatment. This work was granted the Dan Rich Distinguished Dissertation Award, placing it in the top 2% of dissertation projects completed at the University of Delaware in 2022. Recently, she completed a postdoctoral position at the Addiction Policy Forum where she worked as a core member of an interdisciplinary team that reported to NIH leadership across multiple projects including two affiliated with NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) Initiative: HEAL Connections and the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN).

FRI is delighted to welcome Dr. Sawyer-Morris and wishes her a successful career with the organization.

Dr. Mishka Terplan Receives 2023 AMERSA Betty Ford Award

Congratulations to Dr. Mishka Terplan on receiving the 2023 AMERSA Betty Ford Award. This award is presented to an individual who has had a significant impact on the field of alcohol and substance use, particularly with regards to women’s issues, substance use education and recovery.

Click Here to view award posting.

Of special note, Dr. Maxine Stitzer, an FRI Senior Research Scientist, is a past recipient of the Betty Ford Award.

Several FRI Travel Award Winners for CPDD 2023

Michael S. Gordon

Dr. Michael Gordon cited in The Baltimore Banner

FRI Senior Researcher, Dr. Michael Gordon, was recently cited in The Baltimore Banner. Click HERE to read the full article.

In Memoriam: Robert K. Brooner, Ph.D.

We mourn the loss of Dr. Robert K. Brooner who passed away on Sunday, February 26, 2023. Dr. Brooner was Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Senior Research Scientist at Friends Research Institute. Dr. Brooner’s long and productive career in addressing substance use disorders leaves an indelible mark on the lives of his patients, the scientists he mentored, and the field of behavioral health care. At Johns Hopkins, he created an innovative stepped care clinical treatment service that improved the lives of thousands of patients and was a model for other programs around the country. An integrated clinical research program funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse led to numerous important clinical findings and served as fertile ground for nurturing future clinical scientists. The work of Dr. Brooner and his colleagues was at the forefront of the field in attracting people struggling with opioid use disorder into treatment through harm reduction services, demonstrating the effectiveness of combining stepped care with contingency management, safely increasing the number of methadone doses using technology, providing remote counseling, delivering methadone treatment through pharmacies, and integrating psychiatric treatment of co-occurring disorders with opioid use disorder treatment. His many contributions will live on but his continued innovative input to the field of addiction treatment and research will be sorely missed.

Dr. Anjalee Sharma Receives Promotion to Assistant Research Scientist

FRI is pleased to announce that Dr. Anjalee Sharma recently earned her PhD degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has been promoted to Assistant Research Scientist at FRI. This new role is concurrent with her primary position as a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit (BPRU). Dr. Sharma first joined FRI in 2014 as a Research Assistant, working on Dr. Robert Schwartz’s studies of screening tool validation in primary care (CTN 0059), patient-centered methadone treatment, and interim methadone treatment initiated in the Baltimore City Detention Center. She briefly left FRI to pursue her doctoral education at the University of North Carolina, returning in 2020 to work with Dr. Jan Gryczynski on studies of brief interventions for adolescents, buprenorphine diversion in criminal justice settings, and opioid use disorder treatment linkage. Dr. Sharma’s areas of research include treatment access and outcomes, criminal justice, and equity. Using data from two FRI clinical trials of methadone treatment, her doctoral dissertation examined the relationship between treatment initiation setting, patient race, and Quality of Life. In her new role as Assistant Research Scientist, Dr. Sharma will focus on opioid use disorder treatment research, working with Dr. Gryczynski and colleagues. FRI is excited to welcome Dr. Sharma to her new position at the Institute, and offers congratulations for her accomplishments.

Dr. Courtney Nordeck Receives Promotion to Assistant Research Scientist

FRI is pleased to announce that Dr. Courtney Nordeck recently earned her PhD degree in Public Mental Health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and has been promoted from Research Associate to Assistant Research Scientist. Dr. Nordeck first joined FRI in March 2013. Since that time, she has contributed to multiple FRI studies, from her start as a Research Assistant, to Lead Research Site Coordinator for the NIDA CTN TAPS study (CTN 0059), and Quality Assurance Monitor. As a Research Associate, she worked as Project Manager on several studies, including the Navigation Services to Avoid Rehospitalization (NavSTAR) trial. In her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Nordeck used data from the NavSTAR study to examine hospitalization and substance use disorder treatment among individuals experiencing homelessness. Dr. Nordeck’s prior work has included studies of hospital-based services for people with substance use disorder, low-threshold community-based treatment settings, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on substance use patterns, validation of substance use measures, and interventions for both adolescents and adults. In her role as Assistant Research Scientist, Dr. Nordeck will work with Dr. Gryczynski and other FRI colleagues to study novel service delivery models and treatment outcomes among vulnerable populations. FRI congratulates Dr. Nordeck on her accomplishments, is delighted to welcome her to her new position, and wishes her continued success.

FRI is proud to announce that the Text Me, Girl! intervention, designed by Dr. Cathy Reback and study team, has been added to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Best Practices Compilation

Congratulations to Dr. Cathy Reback and her study team on the addition of Text Me, Girl! to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) Best Practices Compilation. Text Me, Girl! is a culturally responsive and theory-based text messaging intervention designed specifically for young adult trans women living with HIV. The 90-day intervention consists of 270 unique scripted text messages; three daily unidirectional messages delivered via automation. Each text message reflects a placement along the HIV Care Continuum and each text message is grounded in a behavioral change theory. Findings from the randomized controlled trial demonstrated that exposure to Text Me, Girl! was significantly associated with increased advancement along the HIV Care Continuum including increased ART initiation and adherence, and increased viral suppression.

Michael S. Gordon

Dr. Michael Gordon and FRI receives mention in JCOIN newsletter.

Dr. Michael Gordon and FRI receives mention in JCOIN newsletter.
Click Here to read the newsletter.