Upcoming VCBH Events

Wednesday, May 20: VCBH Lecture Series featuring, Sarah Heil, PhD
Time & Location: 12:00pm, Zoom. Information to follow.

Click here to read the 2018-2019 VCBH Year in Review.

2017-2018 VCBH Year in Review

VCBH Career Opportunities


We are currently hiring a Project Manager, Research Analyst, Research Project Assistant and Clinical Project Manager.


We currently have an opening for an NIH postdoctoral research fellow to participate in the conduct of an ongoing NIDA/FDA-funded trial.

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


UVM TCORS Research Graduate Assistant Roxanne Harfmann, BA was recently a recipient of the 2020 SRNT New Investigator Best Abstract Award for her abstract entitled, "Addiction Potential of Cigarettes with Reduced Nicotine Content in Pregnant Women".  

UVM TCORS team is well represented in the latest CASEL special issue on Nicotine Standards in Nicotine & Tobacco Research!

Bader Chaarani, PhD, received the ABCD Outstanding Investigator Award at the 2019 ABCD annual meeting.

Drs. Stacey Sigmon and Allison Kurti present at the 2019 New England Rural Health Conference. Dr. Sigmon's presentation focused on the "Innovative Approaches to Expanding Opioid Addiction Treatment in Rural Communities", and Dr. Kurti presented on "Leveraging Science, Technology, and Creativity to Improve Rural Health".

Elias Klemperer, PhD, receives the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine Dean's Excellence in Research Award. Dr. Klemperer was awarded the best postdoctoral research presentation titled, "Who remits from opioid use disorder without treatment? Findings from a nationally representative US Survey?"

Stacey Sigmon, PhD, presents a poster at the 2019 Lisbon Addictions Conference in Lisbon, Portugal. Dr. Sigmon's poster titled, "Innovative treatment for opioid use disorder", outlined the findings of her novel Interim Buprenorphine Treatment (IBT) to mitigate risks during treatment delays for opioid-dependent individuals using technology-aided devices to deliver pharmacotherapy.

UVMMC Cardiologist and VCBH Pilot Project Director, Sherrie Khadanga, MD, was awarded "Young Investigator of the Year" at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) held in Portland, OR. The title of her study was, "Optimizing the Exercise Training Response in Women in Cardiac Rehabilitation."

VCBH Research News

Getting Used to Our “New Normal”

Taped off park benchAllison N. Kurti, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry, and Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and director of VCBH, recently authored an article for the UVM Medical Center's blog entitled, "Getting Used to Our 'New Normal.'" The article explores several important behavior change questions community members face as the weather becomes warmer and sunnier, we see opportunities to gather outdoors, and we desire a return to our pre-pandemic lives despite knowing COVID-19 has not been eliminated, there is no treatment, nor a vaccine.

  • Why is it so hard to continue practicing physical distancing even though we know it’s the right thing to do?
  • How can we overcome our tendency to lose sight of greater future rewards, like a healthier community?
  • How do we set up routines for ourselves?
  • Where can we find more of these fun resources?

Read the entire article on the blog and visit the new VCBH COVID-19 website to find resources to help maintain health and wellness while social distancing and adjusting to the "new normal."

Study Highlights Impact of COVID-19 on Tobacco and E-cigarette Use and Motivation to Quit


Burlington, VT — A new study from researchers at the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH) at the University of Vermont (UVM) suggests that, for some, knowledge of COVID-19 is associated with a reduction in cigarette and e-cigarette use, as well as an Cigarette breakingincrease in motivation to quit. 

The study, published in Nicotine & Tobacco Researchis among the first to report changes in tobacco use and motivation to quit using cigarettes and e-cigarettes in response to COVID-19. 

In this study, VCBH investigators examined data collected from 345 U.S. adults in an online survey conducted in April 2020. The researchers found that a desire to reduce COVID-19 infection risk prompted nearly a quarter of respondents to reduce their cigarette and e-cigarette use, and more than one-third to increase their motivation to quit. Greater perceived risk was associated with increased motivation to quit both products, and more than 20 percent of respondents reported a quit attempt to reduce risk of harm from COVID-19. These data are consistent with recent Vermont quit line (802 QUITSdata showing increases in phone and website registrations in March 2020 compared to March 2019.

Read the entire release

VCBH Fellow Joins the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Munroe-Meyer Institute


Rey HeadshotThe Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH) is pleased to announce that Catalina Rey, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow, will join the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Munroe-Meyer Institute as an assistant professor. Dr. Rey will provide services for children with autism; teach and mentor Ph.D. students; and continue research endeavors.

Dr. Rey worked with VCBH’s Dr. Sarah Heil on a randomized controlled trial assessing an intervention to promote more effective contraceptive use among women receiving medication for opioid use disorder. “My time at VCBH has been extremely valuable and filled with opportunities to work on meaningful research and grow as a scientist. I am especially grateful for the mentorship, support, and guidance I received from Dr. Sarah Heil during my time here,” shared Dr. Rey.

VCBH Fellow Selected as Instructor at the University of Illinois-Springfield

HypatiaBolivarThe Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH) is delighted to announce that Hypatia (Tia) Bolívar, Ph.D., a TCORS postdoctoral fellow, will join the University of Illinois-Springfield as a psychology instructor. Her position will include teaching and mentoring undergraduate psychology students. 

While at VCBH, Dr. Bolívar assisted in ongoing research on very-low nicotine content cigarettes in vulnerable populations as well as working with her primary advisor, Dr. Diann Gaalema, on examining smoking and non-cigarette tobacco use in patients with cardiovascular disease. She is currently leading a meta-analysis on the effects of contingency management in the treatment of behavioral problems with individuals with opiate use disorder.

“Although my time at VCBH was shorter than I anticipated, my experience has been excellent. I learned a great deal about conducting research with vulnerable populations and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from several esteemed leaders in the field of behavior change,” said Dr. Bolívar.

Dr. Bolívar’s work on smoking in cardiovascular patients resulted in a first-author publication in press at the Journal of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. She is a co-author on two studies examining the effects of smoking on vulnerable populations that are both currently under review.

VCBH Fellow Selected for the 2020 American Psychological Association Division 28 Outstanding Dissertation Award 

Eli Div 28 Award Elias Klemperer, PhD was selected as a co-winner of the 2020 Outstanding Dissertation Award by the American Psychological Association’s Division 28. Dr. Klemperer joins Allison Kurti, PhD and Kelly Dunn, PhD as the third trainee from the University of Vermont to win Division 28’s Outstanding Dissertation award. This award honors the best doctoral dissertations in psychopharmacology and substance abuse, and acknowledges the exceptional quality of Dr. Klemperer’s doctoral dissertation: A randomized trial to compare switching to very low nicotine content cigarettes versus reducing cigarettes per day. Dr. Klemperer completed his dissertation as a pre-doctoral trainee at the VCBH under the mentorship of John Hughes, MD. After completing his clinical internship at Yale University, Dr. Klemperer returned to the VCBH and is currently a postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Andrea Villanti, PhD, MPH and Richard Rawson, PhD. Findings from his dissertation were recently published in Addiction and Nicotine & Tobacco Research

Screen Shot 2019-12-19 at 12.07.46 PMPreventive Medicine Sixth Special Issue, November 2019

The November 2019 Special Issue of Preventive Medicine is the sixth in a series that focuses on behavior change, health, health disparities. Select researchers that participated in the 2018 Vermont Center on Behavior and Health 6th Annual Conference were invited to contribute to the Special Issue based on their exemplary scholarship and research on opioids, tobacco, and treatment adherence. VCBH Director, Dr. Stephen Higgins, organized the selection of papers as well as acted as the guest editor.

Considerable attention is given to the ongoing U.S. opioid epidemic and the critical need to develop clinical infrastructure to meet the growing demand for opioid-related clinical services. Selected papers also address tobacco use and adherence to medical regimens.

VCBH Faculty Selected Among Thousands to Present Research on Children's Brain Function

Bader Chaarani, PhD, was selected to present at the 2019 Organization for Human Brain Mapping international meeting in Rome, Italy. Among thousands of abstract submissions, Dr. Chaarani's abstract titled, "Relationship between Video Gaming and Brain Function in a Large Sample of Children" was 1 of 100 selected for an oral presentation. Dr. Chaarani was a VCBH TCORS postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Hugh Garavan. He is now an Assistant Professor in the department of Psychiatry at UVM conducting research on neuro-biological and behavioral risk factors underlying substance use and psychiatric diseases.