Upcoming VCBH Events

Wednesday, November 14: VCBH Lecture Series featuring, Sherry Grace, Ph.D.
Time & Location: 12:00pm, UVM Davis Auditorium
Title: Strategies to Increase Utilization of Cardiac Rehabilitation

Wednesday, December 19: VCBH Lecture Series featuring, Mary Brunette, M.D.
Time & Location: 12:00pm, UVM Davis Auditorium
Topic: Using technology to promote improve smoking cessation outcomes among those with severe mental illnesses

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. 


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.

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.

TCORS postdoc Maria Parker, Ph.D., publishes paper, "Associations Between Opioid and Nicotine Dependence in Nationally Representative Samples of United States Adult Daily Smokers", in Drug & Alcohol Dependence. This paper was co-authored by TCORS predoc, Joanna Streck and their mentor, Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D.

TCORS paper, "Multimodal Neuroimaging Differences in Nicotine Abstinent vs. Satiated Smokers", led by Bader Chaarani, PhD and Philip Spechler, MS, has been accepted for publication in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

VCBH Research News

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/addition 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.

Garavan Receives T32 Award Focused on Training in the Neurobiology of Substance Abuse 

Garavan_Hugh_HVCBH Investigator, Hugh Garavan, Ph.D., has been awarded a 5-year T32 pre and post-doctoral training program, making this the second T32 training program within the VCBH. The purpose of this program is to train and pre and post-doctoral scholars in the application of complex systems approaches to the neurobiology of substance abuse. The core curriculum will incorporate: 1) the established complex systems graduate certificate at the University of Vermont; 2) course work in neurosciences, psychology and addiction, including classes focused on developing human subjects research skills; as well as 3) specialized courses designed to directly and effectively bridge the gap between the core disciplines. The overarching aim of the program is to produce researchers poised to apply state-of-the-art analytic tools to understand the neurobiology of drug abuse.

Dr. Garavan states his team is, "very excited to extend VCBH activities in this direction. Bringing complex system methodologies to bear on the rich data sets routinely collected by VCBH researchers will hopefully yield new insights into the mechanisms and processes underlying health-related behaviors."

SigmonSigmon Co-authors JAMA Psychiatry Paper on Novel Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

VCBH Faculty, Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., and other leading opioid researchers, have published in paper in JAMA Psychiatry looking at whether weekly and monthly subcutaneous (SC) buprenorphine depot formulations are non-inferior treatments compared to a daily sublingual (SL) combination of buprenorphone and naloxone. Daily SL buprenorphine with nalaxone has shown to effectively treat opioid use disorder but with limitations including sub-optimal medication adherence  and intravenous misuse. Researchers believe that weekly and monthly SC buprenorphine extended release formulations, may address these limitations while still proving to be effective. The randomized clinical trial of 428 participants demonstrated that long-acting buprenorphine formulations did indeed appear to be effective for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

Image of YIR cover

Click here to read the 2016-2017 VCBH Year in Review.