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Faculty – Spark – Science to end drug-related harms

Faculty


Gene Brody, PhD

Gene Brody, PhD
Dr. Brody is a Distinguished Research Professor of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia, where he has taught since 1976. He is also the founder and director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Family Research and a part-time research professor in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.
He is known for his research on the physiological and biological effects of psychological stress, poverty, and discrimination. He has also investigated how these effects can be moderated by other environmental variables, such as support from family members. His research has shown, for example, that African American youth who are exposed to the stress of being raised in poverty are more likely to develop diabetes and increased allostatic load later in life.


Hannah CooperHannah Cooper, ScD
Dr. Cooper is the first Rollins Chair of Substance Use Disorders at Emory. A Professor in the Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences at the Rollins School of Public Health, Dr. Cooper directs Spark, and also directs the Research Core for Emory’s Injury Prevention Research Center.
Her research expertise includes studying the social determinants of health, with a particular focus on the social determinants of drug use, drug users’ health, and health disparities. She applies multilevel, geospatial, and qualitative methods to explore these topics.


Craig CoopersmithCraig Coopersmith, MD
Dr. Coopersmith is Professor and Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Surgery and is the Interim Director of the Emory Critical Care Center. His research examines the impact of alcohol use disorder on the pathophysiology of sepsis, with a focus on the role of gut integrity and the adaptive immune system in mediating increased mortality.


Natalie CrawfordNatalie Crawford, PhD
Dr. Crawford’s broad research interests are examining the social processes that create and perpetuate racial and ethnic disparities in HIV.
Her research has examined the intersection of individual level experiences of discrimination, macro-level neighborhood characteristics and social network relationships on high-risk drug and sexual behaviors. Dr. Crawford’s research aims to inform structural interventions and policies that reduce substance use, high-risk drug and sexual behaviors, and ultimately racial and ethnic disparities in HIV. 
Dr. Crawford received her PhD in Epidemiology from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and completed her post-doctoral training at the University of Michigan as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar.


Janet Cummings, PhDJanet Cummings, PhD
Dr. Cummings is a core faculty member in the Center for Behavioral Health Policy Studies. Her research focuses on issues concerning access to and quality of behavioral health services, with a particular emphasis on racial/ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic disparities among the child and adolescent population. She has a K01 Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health that examines determinants of mental health service use among Medicaid-enrolled children in the safety-net using quantitative and qualitative methods.
Dr. Cummings has been actively involved in service and leadership activities within Academy Health, a preeminent national association of health services and health policy researchers. She is currently serving as Chair of the Academy Health Behavioral Health Services Research Interest Group Advisory Committee.


Carlos Del Rio, MDCarlos Del Rio, MD
Dr. Del Rio, MD is Professor and Chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Emory University School of Medicine. He is also Vice Chair in the Department of Medicine and Chief of the Emory Medical Service at Grady Memorial Hospital and Co-director for the Clinical Science and International Research Core of the Emory Center for AIDS Research.
He has held numerous leadership roles including: executive director of the National AIDS Council of Mexico, the Federal agency of the Mexican government responsible for AIDS policy in that country; program director and principal investigator of the Emory AIDS International Training and Research Program; and member of the Board of the International AIDS Society USA.
Dr. Del Rio’s research interests include the epidemiology of opportunistic infections in HIV and other immune deficiencies, the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, HIV testing, access to care and compliance with antiretroviral drug regimens. He is also interested in the impact of HIV in developing countries and the optimal use of antiretroviral drugs in limited-resource settings. Dr. Del Rio is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Latin American AIDS Initiative, the Monitoring of the AIDS Pandemic Network, and is associate editor of AIDS Clinical Care and AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses and a member of the editorial board of Journal of AIDS, Women, Children and HIV, and Global Public Health. He has co-authored five books, 30 book chapters, and more than 100 scientific papers.


Benjamin DrussBenjamin Druss, MD
Dr. Druss is Professor and Rosalynn Carter Chair in mental health in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University.
As one of only a handful of psychiatrists in the country based in a school of public health, Dr. Druss is working to integrate mental health, physical health, and public health.  His research has focused on understanding and improving access, quality, and outcomes of care for populations with serious mental illnesses and medical comorbidity. This work has included epidemiological studies; intervention trials; and health policy and public health research.  Dr. Druss serves on the Editorial Boards of JAMA Psychiatry and the American Journal of Psychiatry, and was a member of the NIMH National Advisory Mental Health Council from 2014-19. In 2018, he was awarded the American Public Health Association’s Carl Taube Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Field of Mental Health.


Shannon GourleyShannon Gourley, PhD
Dr. Gourley’s research focuses on issues of depression and addiction. Within social contexts, Dr. Gourley’s research team aims to understand how social context during adolescence sculpts prefrontal cortical development and determines long-behavioral outcomes. These include, for example, complex decision-making, reward valuation and inhibitory control in adulthood.
Dr. Gourley’s team uses behavioral, pharmacological, biochemical, genetic, and cellular approaches to develop and optimize novel therapeutic interventions for adolescent populations vulnerable to depression and addiction. Additionally, her research team aims to better understand the neurobiological mechanisms of resilience to stressors (including social stressors) and drugs of abuse at any age.


Regine HaardorferRegine Haardorfer, PhD
As a research methodologist, Dr. Haadorfer has extensive experience in the analysis of social science data, including analysis of longitudinal, dyadic, and nested data. Her research interest is developing and applying advanced and innovative methodological approaches to advance behavioral sciences in public health. Since joining Emory in 2010, she has been the lead statistician for the Emory Prevention Research Center. In this capacity, she has collaborated in two large research teams and led data analysis for four randomized controlled trials assessing efficacy and effectiveness of both the Healthy Homes/Healthy Families intervention and the Smoke-Free Homes program. Furthermore, she is leading data analysis for a USDA funded R01 that investigates longitudinal patterns (collecting 6 waves of data) of poly-tobacco use in college students. Most recently, she has been collaborating on a clustered randomized control trial of pediatric cancer centers on patient survivor care visit attendance.


Jason HockenberryJason Hockenberry, PhD
Dr. Hockenberry is a methods expert as it pertains to using large longitudinal data sources for quantitative policy evaluation.  He is regularly sought out for this expertise, and has recently become a statistical reviewer for JAMA Open for papers using these methods.  He is currently PI of a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study the patterns of prescribing of opioids to pediatric surgical patients.  He also has an individual personnel agreement with the National Center for Injury Prevention at CDC, specifically to assist in examining prescription drug overdose and related policy. 


Umedjon IbragimovUmedjon Ibragimov, PhD
Dr. Ibragimov studied at the National Medical School of Tajikistan and at the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, US. He has a special interest in HIV prevention and harm reduction. He has coordinated a national-level HIV-prevention program and conducted needs assessments with opiate users and rapid assessments of people who inject drugs in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Dr. Ibragimov’s research interests include structural determinants of HIV/AIDS and implementation of harm reduction services in the US and globally. He also studied the influence of stigma and violence on the health of marginalized populations in his native Tajikistan and China. In his work he applies multilevel and structural equation modelling and qualitative methods. Before joining academia he led national-level HIV prevention and harm reduction programs in Tajikistan.


Kelli Komro, PhDKelli Komro, PhD
Dr. Komro is a social and behavioral epidemiologist focused on child health promotion by intervening on social determinants of health through policy change. For more than two decades, she has led NIH-funded cluster-randomized trials to study family, school, community and policy strategies to promote health and reduce high-risk behaviors and health disparities.
Currently, with funding from NIMHD, she studies the effects of state-level family economic security policies on infant and child health using natural experiment design methods. She also collaborates on multiple community-based intervention projects. NIH has continually funded her research since the 1990s and she has published in the leading public health, prevention science, preventive medicine, addiction and health behavior journals.


Melvin LivingstonMelvin Livingston, PhD
Dr. Livingston is a methodologist with expertise in the application of quasi-experimental design principals to the evaluation for both community interventions and state policies. He has particular expertise in time series modeling, mixed effects modeling, econometric methods, and power analysis.
As part of his work involving community trials, he has been the statistician on the long term follow-up study of a school based cluster randomized trial in low-income communities with a focus on explaining the etiology of risky alcohol, drug, and sexual behaviors. Additionally, he was the statistician for a longitudinal study examining the etiology of alcohol use among racially diverse and economically disadvantaged urban youth, and co-investigator for a NIAAA- and NIDA-funded trial to prevent alcohol use and alcohol-related problems among youth living in high-risk, low-income communities within the Cherokee Nation. Prevention work at the community level led him to an interest in the impact of state and federal scoioeconomic policies on health outcomes. He is a Co-Investigator of a 50-state, 30-year study of effects of state-level economic and education policies on a diverse set of public health outcomes, explicitly examining differential effects across disadvantaged subgroups of the population.


Colleen McBrideColleen McBride, PhD
Dr. McBride is the Grace Crum Rollins Chair in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education. She came to Emory from the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health, where she served as founding chief and senior investigator of the Social and Behavioral Research Branch.
Dr. McBride’s research focuses on innovative public health interventions to promote risk-reducing behaviors, specifically using genetic information to motivate healthy behaviors. Genetic information, scientists believe, eventually will allow lifestyle interventions to be personalized to make compliance with healthy behaviors easier.


Rohan PalmerRohan Palmer, PhD
As Principal Investigator of an NIAAA sponsored K01, Dr. Palmer is currently engaged in whole genome studies of alcohol use disorder and comorbid substance use problems using large epidemiological samples. He is also actively engaged in testing and developing statistical methods using whole genome data. In addition, he provides methodological and statistical consultation to researchers interested in incorporating genetics/epigenetics into their research projects.
He currently serves as an executive committee member for the Behavior Genetics Association where he represents North American student/trainee members. As a past scholar of the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), he is interested in helping students determine their path to a graduate, medical, or faculty career.


Jonathan RuppJonathan Rupp, PhD
Dr. Rupp serves as the Associate Director of Research for Emory University’s School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine and the Director of the Injury Prevention Research Center.
Dr. Rupp’s research focuses on reducing death and injury from physical trauma, particularly in civilian and military motor-vehicle crashes and in under body blast events to military vehicles. His research areas include collecting and using transportation and health data to characterize the factors that influence injury causation and the type of pre-hospital triage care needed by people injured in crashes; conducting laboratory testing and performing computational simulations that quantify human mechanical responses and tissue tolerances to dynamic loading; developing criteria and tools for assessing the risk of injury; and applying these tools and criteria, as well as transportation data-analysis methods, to assess the performance of injury prevention technologies such as seat belts and crash-avoidance systems.


Abeed SarkerAbeed Sarker, PhD
Dr. Sarker is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Emory’s School of Medicine.
His research interests and expertise lie at the intersection of applied machine learning, natural language processing, social media mining, and the application of innovations in these fields to problems to SUD-related health problems and other health outcomes. His research is funded by an R01 grant from NIDA, with the primary goals of developing the data science and natural language processing infrastructure for actively monitoring social media so that current trends in prescription medication misuse/abuse, the trajectories of the population-level misuse/abuse of distinct medications, and the individual-level long-term substance use disorder and the natural histories of drug abuse can be better understood in near real-time. His work on this project involves, for example, using large retrospective social media data mentioning different classes of drugs (e.g., opioids) to predict known metrics such as county-level opioid overdose death rates and regional drug abuse rates as identified by NSDUH surveys.


Alaina SteckAlaina Steck, MD
Dr. Steck is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She is a board-certified Emergency Medicine physician, Medical Toxicologist, and Addiction Medicine specialist who serves as the Medical Director for Grady Memorial Hospital’s Medication-Assisted Opioid Treatment clinic.
She evaluates and treats patients across the spectrum of substance use disorders, including patients with acute intoxication, complex withdrawal syndromes, and those in longitudinal care. Additionally, she is co-chair of the Drug Safety Task Force at the Injury Prevention Research Center at Emory (IPRCE) and the co-chair of the Treatment and Recovery Workgroup, as part of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Strategic Plan to Address the Opioid Epidemic. Previous and ongoing projects involve analysis of electronic medical records data from a tertiary-care, urban, safety-net hospital (Grady Memorial Hospital) as well as data from the Georgia Poison Center and National Poison Data System (NPDS), which houses real-time data and surveillance functions for all 55 poison centers in the United States.


Alex WagenaarAlex Wagenaar, PhD
Dr. Wagenaar is a Research Professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education. He is a social and behavioral epidemiologist with a long history of studies evaluating the effects of state and national public health policy changes and community-level preventive interventions, using both randomized trial and controlled time-series research designs and statistical methods.
Dr. Wagenaar has a career-long passion for using the strongest experimental and quasi-experimental research designs combined with state-of-the-art statistical methods to accurately measure the specific health effects attributable to public policy changes and community organizing interventions at the national, state, county/city and organizational levels. Several of his recent theoretical and empirical papers have examined the effects of opioid policies such as PDMPs, and cannabis policies such as medical marijuana laws and legalization of recreational use.


David WeinshenkerDavid Weinshenker, PhD
Dr. Weinshenker is a Professor in the Department of Human Genetics.
A major interest of his lab is identifying the neurobiology of reward and reinforcement as it pertains to drug addiction. In particular, these studies have helped delineate the role of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine (NE) in addictive-like behavior and shown that NE mediates rewarding and aversive effects of addictive drugs including opiates, psychostimulants, and alcohol, as well as playing a central role in relapse-like behavior. These studies have identified complex interactions between NE and dopamine, the neurotransmitter considered central to reward and reinforcement, and laid the groundwork for potential NE-based therapies for the treatment of drug dependence.


Justine WelshJustine Welsh, MD
Dr. Welsh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology. Her expertise lies in medication management and behavioral interventions for the treatment of substance use disorders and other co-occurring mental health conditions.
Her role as Director of Emory Healthcare Addiction Services has allowed her to establish treatment resources in the local Atlanta area for individuals fourteen and older who struggle with substance use. In addition, she is the PI of two ongoing research grants: a R21 that examines treatment outcomes of combining the Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach with medication-assisted treatment for young adults with severe opioid use disorder and the Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance pilot grant which adapts the existing curriculum of the Women’s Recovery Group to young adults while also examining qualitative feedback and treatment outcomes. In 2018, she received the Emory University School of Medicine Addiction Psychiatry Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Distinguished Clinician of the Year Award.


Kelly Wiltse-NicleyKelly Wiltse-Nicley, PhD
Dr. Wiltse-Nicley is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing. She was recently awarded a HRSA grant to educate anesthesia trainees on the opioid crisis and their role in decreasing opioid abuse.
Her research focuses on the use of non-opioid or opioid sparing anesthetics in the operating suite during surgical oncology procedures. In addition, she has completed a multi-site survey examining the attitudes, facilitators and barriers to the use of opioid sparing and opioid free anesthetic techniques in cancer specialty hospitals. She has served on doctoral committees related to health services research and has mentored and chaired multiple clinical doctoral capstone projects related to pain management and the prevention of opioid use disorders.


Courtney YarbroughCourtney Yarbrough, PhD
Dr. Yarbrough is an Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management who specializes in pharmaceutical policy with an emphasis on substance use disorders (SUD). Her past research has evaluated state policies designed to mitigate the opioid crisis, including studies measuring the effects of prescription drug monitoring programs on physicians’ opioid pain reliever prescribing and patients’ pain management.
She was co-principal investigator on a grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research Program related to these issues. More recently, her research has addressed the SUD treatment availability and quality. She uses geospatial analysis to determine the structural barriers to SUD treatment and how those have changed in response to rising levels of opioid use disorder and mortality. She is also analyzing the effects of opioid-related policies on access to medications for cancer patients.


Katherine YeagerKatherine Yeager, RN, PhD, FAAN
Dr. Yeager is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing. Her program of research focuses on understanding and improving the symptom and treatment experience for individuals with cancer.
Her dissertation and a recently completed K01 specifically explored how African Americans with cancer manage pain. Her K01 explored adherence to extended release opioids for the treatment of cancer pain. Findings from this mixed method study include that despite living with pain, African Americans with cancer were not adherent to their pain medication regimen. Factors influencing adherence included treatment demands, changes in pain, symptom severity, and concerns about doctors’ focus on pain versus cure. This research informed her recently funded R01 which aims to characterize adherence trajectories of oral chemotherapy in individuals being treated for chronic myeloid leukemia and then determine how side effects and financial toxicity influence these adherence trajectories.