Upcoming VCBH Events

Wednesday, January 23: VCBH Lecture Series featuring, Andrew Stokes, PhD
Time & Location: 12:00pm, UVM Davis Auditorium
Title: Association of Electronic Cigarette Use with Subsequent Initiation of Tobacco Cigarettes in US Youths

Wednesday, February 13: VCBH Lecture Series featuring, Benjamin Bearnot, MD
Time & Location: 12:00pm, UVM Davis Auditorium
Title: Meeting People Who Use Drugs Where They Are: Career Development in Addiction Research and Implementation

Wednesday, March 20: VCBH Lecture Series featuring, Andrew Strasser, PhD
Time & Location: 12:00pm, UVM Davis Auditorium


2018 VCBH Conference Recorded Talks!

Missed the conference or want to re-watch some of your favorite talks?

Click HERE for the recordings!

VCBH NIH Research Fellowship Opportunities

We are currently recruiting for one NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship and multiple NIH Predoctoral Fellowships.

Please visit our Career Opportunities page to learn more about these positions and to review the application instructions. 


Andrea Villanti, Ph.D., participates in a podcast for the UVM Medical Center on smoking and lung cancer. Check it out, here!

Maria Parker, Ph.D., VCBH TCORS Postdoc, leads a paper with other VCBH faculty and collaborators titled, "Tobacco Product Harm Perceptions and New Use". This paper is the first look at the association between tobacco harm perceptions among youth, and subsequent new use across multiple non-cigarette products.

The VCBH Center grant renewals make local headlines in the Vermont Rutland Herald and the Times-Argus, discussing the goals of the grants to better understand how reduce risky health behavior among at-risk populations

Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D. receives promotion to Tenured Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychological Sciences at the University of Vermont!

Andrea Villanti, Ph.D. to act as Co-PI on newly funded R21 grant on abuse liability and sustainability of menthol cigarette alternatives.

VCBH Postdoc, Kelly Peck, Ph.D. gives an invited educational talk at Fairfield University, titled "The Ongoing Opioid Epidemic: Barriers to Treatment, Novel Treatment Approaches, and Vulnerable Populations".

Danielle Davis, M.S., receives acceptance of paper titled, "Response to Reduced Nicotine Content in Vulnerable Populations: Effect of Menthol Status", in Tobacco Regulatory Science.

VCBH Research News

Sigmon Elected 2020-2021 CPDD President  Sigmon headshot crop[1]

Stacey Sigmon, PhD, has been elected as the 2020-2021 College of Problems on Drug Dependence (CPDD) President.  Dr. Sigmon is an Associate Professor with Tenure at the University of Vermont with the VCBH.  CPDD is the oldest and largest organization in the US dedicated to advancing a scientific approach to substance use and addictive disorders.  CPDD’s mission is to provide a national and international forum for scientists of diverse backgrounds to advance the understanding of molecular-neurobiological aspects of addictive disorders and, by the application of new scientific knowledge, to improve and develop treatments utilizing novel behavioral and pharmacological therapies.  Dr. Sigmon is a also current member of the CPDD Board of Directors and was the 2016 President for the American Psychological Association's Division on Psychopharmacology and Substance Use.  Congratulations, Dr. Sigmon!

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 3.25.59 PMPublished: Preventive Medicine Fifth Special Issue, December 2018

The December 2018 Special Issue of Preventive Medicine (PM) is the fifth in a series that focuses on behavior change, health, and health disparities. Contributors to these Special Issues are selected from participants in the 2017 VCBH 5th Annual Conference on Tobacco Regulatory Science.

The topics covered in this Special Issue are specific to tobacco regulatory science, a field which assures that the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center of Tobacco Products (CTP) has the multidisciplinary scientific input necessary to conduct evidence-based regulation. More specifically, this issue focuses on a set of three current topics in tobacco regulatory science:

1) Examining current research examining the effects of a potential national policy that would reduce the nicotine levels in cigarettes to minimally addictive levels.

2) Increasing scientific understanding on the risk and patterns of cigarette smoking and other tobacco use in vulnerable populations.

3) Potential role of e-cigarettes and other non-combusted sources of nicotine as less harmful substitutes for combusted products for those unwilling or unable to quite nicotine use.

VCBH Project Director and Senior Epidemiologist Receive Dean's Excellence in Research Awards   Sprague_BrianAhern_UVMmod

Current VCBH Project Director and Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery, Thomas Ahern, Ph.D.; and former VCBH Project Director, now Senior Epidemiologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery and Biochemistry, Brian Sprague, Ph.D., both received awards at the University of Vermont's, Dean's Excellence in Research, event.

Dr. Ahern was awarded the Rising Start New Investigator award, while Dr. Sprague was awarded the Mid-Career Investigator award. Drs. Ahern and Sprague focus on epidemiological research around breast cancer risk and recurrence.

The third annual Celebrating Excellence in Research is hosted by the UVM Larner College of Medicine and highlights research being conducted by junior and senior faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and graduate students within the college. The event's Keynote Address was given by Elaine Ostrander, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and included other speakers such as Gordon Jensen, M.D., Ph.D., UVM's Senior Associate Dean for Research.

Scholars Share Research on the Opioid Epidemic at the 6th Annual Vermont Center on Behavior and Health Conference

The 6th Annual Vermont Center and Behavior and Health (VCBH) Conference, October 11-12, organized by VCBH Director, Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., brought together scholars from leading universities and medical centers to discuss the opioid dependence epidemic, an issue that as rattled the entire nation to its core. Research on improving access to treatment and effective pain/addiction management were among the major priorities discussed at the two-day event.

The conference kicked off with an excellent keynote address given by Sharon Walsh, Ph.D., Director of the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research and Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Kentucky. Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan gave powerful opening remarks on the second day, setting the tone for a strong last day of research sharing.

Among our notable presenters were Andrew Herring, M.D., Emergency Medicine Specialist, Alameda Health System; Jeffrey Samet, M.D., Chief, General Internal Medicine, Professor, Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health; Laura Fanucchi, M.D., Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, and our own, Richard Rawson, Ph.D., Research Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Psychological Sciences.

The presentations have been recorded and can be viewed here.

Vermont Center on Behavior and Health Receives $30+ Million in Grant Renewals

University of Vermont (UVM) Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychological Science, and Director of the Vermont Center on Higgins PicBehavior and Health (VCBH), Stephen T. Higgins, Ph.D., has announced the successful renewal of two multi-million dollar Center grants.

The Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) award from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences, and the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and U.S. Federal and Drug Administration (FDA) will bring in over $30 million in federal funding to support another five years of research on the intersection of behavior and health, replicating what had been an unprecedented accomplishment at UVM when these two centers were first funded in September, 2013. 

The COBRE will continue its focus on increasing understanding of the mechanisms underpinning vulnerability to unhealthy behavior patterns and developing effective behavior-change interventions, with the end goal of establishing a productive, stand alone Center of research excellence. The TCORS will focus on a major policy under consideration by FDA's Center for Tobacco Products that would reduce the nicotine content of cigarettes below an addiction threshold.

Click here for the full press release on the COBRE and TCORS Awards!

VCBH/UVM Faculty & UVMMC Physicians Awarded SAMHSA Grant to Expand Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

University of Vermont (UVM) Faculty, Richard Rawson PhD, and Scott Mackey, PhD, along with University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) Psychiatrist, Sanchit Maruti, MD, and Emergency Medicine Physician, Daniel Wolfson, MD, have been awarded a 3-year grant aimed at expanding medication assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD) in emergency departments (ED's) around the state.

The current practice of providing ED patients with OUD with a referral to treatment is often a missed opportunity to engage patients in MAT. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this grant will allow three Vermont medical centers the opportunity to establish a new intervention to initiate treatment for those presenting with OUD at the ED, then transfer these patients to a community treatment center.

Principal Investigators, Drs. Mackey, Maruti, and Wolfson, will lead the study and Dr. Rawson will act as the evaluator to determine the effectiveness of initiating treatment in this setting.

GaalemasmallGaalema Receives NIH Award Examining Interventions to Increase Cardiac Rehabilitation Participation Among Low-SES Patients

Diann Gaalema, Ph.D., has received funding for an NIH-sponsored R61 award that will examine the efficacy of using early case management and financial incentives for increasing cardiac rehabilitation (CR) participation among lower socioeconomic status (SES) patients. Participation in outpatient CR has shown to decrease morbidity and mortality for patients hospitalized with for various heart conditions. However, only 10-35% of patients for whom CR is recommended, choose to participate. Low-SES is a strong indicator of non-CR participation, therefore there is a strong need to increase CR participation within this population. Both case management and financial incentives are proven effective in altering behaviors and promoting adherence to health-related regimens.

Dr. Gaalema is a graduate of the VCBH Project Director mentoring program in which she successfully completed a randomized clinical trial studying the effects of financial incentives to increase CR participation among disadvantaged populations. Her new award will allow her to continue her research in this field to increase awareness about the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of such approaches that have the potential to substantially increase CR participation and improve health outcomes among lower-SES cardiac patients. 

Heil Receives NIDA Award for Study on Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorder  Sarah Heil

Sarah Heil, Ph.D., is now the Co-Principal Investigator of a $3.3 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to conduct a multi-site treatment trial of pregnant women with opioid use disorder. Dr. Heil and colleagues from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Johns Hopkins University, and Virginia Commonwealth University, will compare maternal, fetal, and neonatal outcomes associated with medically-supervised withdrawal (MSW) vs. opioid agonist therapy (OAT). OAT is the recommended standard of care, but there is interesting interest in MSW during pregnancy. Mixed results from weak studies in the existing literature make it difficulty to draw clear conclusions about the relative risks and benefits of MSW and OAT during pregnancy. The results will help patients, providers, medial societies, and governments make more informed decisions about the treatment of opioid use disorder during pregnancy.

Image of YIR cover

Click here to read the 2017-2018 VCBH Year in Review.