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VCBH News & Announcement Archive




Hughes Featured in WalletHub's "True Cost of Smoking" Online Article

In light of Tobacco-Free Awareness Week and to encourage the more than 66 million tobacco users in the U.S. to kick the dangerous habit, WalletHub’s analysts gauged the true per-person cost of smoking in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. John Hughes, M.D., UVM professor of psychiatry and VCBH investigator, talked with the online magazine's editors about the most effective strategies for quitting. Read the story>>>

Ades Receives 2015 "Senior Researcher of the Year" Award

On December 10, Philip Ades, M.D., VCBH associate director and UVM professor of cardiovascular medicine, was bestowed the 2015 Senior Researcher of the Year Award from the UVM Medical Group (MG). The award, which comes with a cash prize and grant funding, honors one physician each year for exceptional teaching and research efforts.

VCBH Launches Second Preventive Medicine Special Issue

The November 2015 Special Issue of Preventive Medicine is the second to be organized by VCBH investigators, featuring an introduction by Director Stephen Higgins, Ph.D. The theme, "Behavior Change, Health, and Health Disparities," is of fundamental importance to improving population health and effectively managing chronic health conditions. See the issue>>>

Gaalema Shares Suggestions for Holiday Health & Behavior on VPR

Short of fasting and avoiding all human contact, the holiday season presents an abudance of food, drink and frivolity opportunities. VCBH Researcher and UVM Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Diann Gaalema talked with Vermont Public Radio about the causes of excessive behavior and offers suggestions for mitigating the damage. Listen or read here>>>

Sigmon Talks Methodone Success Rate & Contigency Management Research with Local News

Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., recently spoke with WCAX Newschannel 3 about the 90-percent success rate of Methadone and Subxone maintenance at the Chittenden Clinic, where she serves as Director. She explained how VCBH research shows that even more opiate abusers could be helped if "contingency management incentives were used." See the story>>>

VCBH's Garavan to Play Role in Large-Scale NIH Study of Adolescent Brain

Hugh Garavan, Ph.D., VCBH director of neuroimaging and UVM professor of psychiatry, will lead UVM's research efforts in a huge landmark study on the effects of substance use on the still-developing teen-aged brain. More than 10,000 children, ages 9 to 10, will be enrolled and followed for 10 years.

Interim Buprenorphine Trial Helps Vermonters on Methadone Clinic Waitlists

The VCBH's Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., saw the need for a clinical trial that would use technology to improve the lives of people awaiting treatment at methadone clinics. A year-and-a-half ago, she received a $650,000 NIH grant to design such a program and the preliminary results are encouraging. Read the story in Vermont Digger>>>




U.S. Senator Leahy Sends Special Video Message to VCBH Conference Attendees

October 1-2, the VCBH hosted its third annual national, interdisciplinary conference to discuss and share strategies for changing the personal behavior patterns that increase health risks and contribute to health disparity problems. The conference kicked off with a special message of appreciation and support from U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. See the video>>>


Gaalema Examines Smoking's Impact on Behavior in Two Populations

Diann Gaalema, Ph.D., UVM assistant professor of psychiatry, is the lead author of two separate research reviews involving individuals with mental illness and/or low socio-economic status who smoke. The studies appeared in July's Tobacco Regulatory Science and April's Preventive Medicine.


WCAX Showcases New VCBH Study Aimed at Helping Moms Quit Smoking

Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., director of the VCBH, explains that the study is looking at low-income moms who smoke and have young kids. He says only about 20 percent of these moms are able to quit smoking when they find out they're pregnant. His new $3.6 million grant aims to help them. View Story >>>


Chittenden Clinic Receives Fresh Produce through Farm Partnership

A pilot project connects patients at the Chittenden methadone clinic in Burlington with farm-fresh fruits and veggies from the Intervale Center's food rescue program. Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., a researcher at UVM's Vermont Center on Behavior and Health, started the project to help boost nutrition among a population that often has trouble accessing healthy meals. See the story>>>


Center and Director Higgins Profiled in Seven Days Newspaper


The August 19 issue of Seven Days Newspaper profiled research at the Vermont Center for Behavior and Health, and the work of Dr. Stephen Higgins, in "A UVM Researcher Aims to Help Addicts." Also included were Dr. Diann Gaalema and Dr. Philip Ades. Read the story>>


WCAX Showcases New VCBH Study Aimed at Helping Moms Quit Smoking


Higgins says the study is looking at low-income moms who smoke and have young kids. He says only about 20 percent of these moms are able to quit smoking when they find out they're pregnant. His new $3.6 million grant aims to help them. Watch the Story >>


VCBH Research the Topic of Vermont Edition on Vermont Public Radio


Jane Lindholm, host of VPR's Vermont Edition, spoke with Dr. Stephen Higgins, the director of the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health, and Dr. Philip Ades, the director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at the University of Vermont Medical Center, about the research they do on risk behaviors and how incentive-based intervention minimizes these behaviors. Read more >>


VCBH & Higgins Featured in Nature Article


The work of the VCBH was featured in an article, “Contingency Management: Why it Pays to Quit,” by Sujata Gupta, in the June 25 issue of Nature. “Bolstered by his short-term success in getting people who have become dependent on cocaine to quit, Higgins began searching for a population in which short-term changes could produce substantial benefits.” Read more >>


Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., Publishes Letter to the Editor in Response to New York Times Article on Heroin Addiction in Vermont


In March, the New York Times Opinion Pages featured a letter authored by Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and lead researcher at the VCBH, that responds to a February 26, 2015 article titled "Vermont Tackles Heroin, With Progress in Baby Steps." Sigmon's letter provides an update to ongoing progress made in Vermont and introduces an interim treatment solution for wait-listed opioid-dependent Vermonters. Sigmon's letter describes positive research findings surrounding new technology and buprenorphine medication, which can be dispensed through a computerized abuse-deterrent device while opioid-dependent individuals await entry to a comprehensive treatment program. Read Sigmon’s letter here.




Higgins, Heil, and Colleagues Look Deeper into the Unhealthy Behaviors Targeted by New Year’s Resolutions


Losing weight, quitting smoking, and getting fit are among the most popular New Year’s resolutions that get both made and broken every year, and with good reason: unhealthy behaviors are hard to change. Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., VCBH director, UVM professor of psychiatry and psychology, and guest editor of a special issue of Preventive Medicine on “Behavior Change, Health, and Health Disparities,” says “The evidence is clear that personal behavior patterns like cigarette smoking and physical inactivity/obesity are critically important proximal causes of chronic disease (cardiovascular disease, site-specific cancers, type-2 diabetes) and as such, behavior change will need to be a key component of their management.”


Steve Higgins, VCBH Director, Recipient of the Virginia H. Donaldson MD '51 Professorship at the University of Vermont


The University of Vermont's College of Medicine announced that Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., Director of the VCBH and professor of psychiatry and psychology, is the recipient of the Virginia H. Donaldson MD '51 Professorship at the University of Vermont. According to UVM leadership, “an endowed professorship or chair is one of the highest honors the University can bestow upon a faculty member.” In a letter announcing this honor, College of Medicine Dean Rick Morin cited Steve's " accomplishments and commitment to the College of Medicine and the University of Vermont as an outstanding scientific collaborator and as a dedicated mentor and educator."


Vermont Medicine Magazine Examines VCBH Research in "The Hidden System"


Vermont Center on Behavior and Health researchers explore the choices people make that can have as much effect on their health as disorders that arise from the recognized systems of the body. Finding ways to work within this hidden system and guide patients toward positive change is the mission of these physicians and scientists. Read more >>


Steve Higgins, VCBH Director, Named Among Top FY14 Research Award Recipients


Despite the continued challenges in securing National Institutes of Health (NIH) research support in fiscal year 2014 – including sequestration and lower grant application success rates – the University of Vermont College of Medicine was fortunate to secure $81.4 million in grant funding in fiscal year 2014 (FY14), which ran from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. That figure was significantly more than one half and nearly two-thirds of the total $128.04 million in funding received by the entire University of Vermont and represents a total of 280 awards to faculty at the College of Medicine. Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., Director of the VCBH and professor of psychiatry and psychology, has been recognized as one of the top grant recipients of 2014. In FY14, Dr. Higgins received notice of more than $34.7 million in funding during a single week. Read More >>

VCBH Researcher, Hugh Garavan Ph.D., and Colleagues Published in Nature


Hugh Garavan Ph.D. and his colleagues in the Departments of Psychiatry and Radiology at UVM have recently published a study in Nature identifying the predictors of adolescent binge drinking (Whelan et al., Nature, 2014). The study utilized data from an ongoing longitudinal study of adolescent development called IMAGEN, a study on which Garavan is one of the site PIs. UVM researchers (Whelan, Orr, Althoff, Ortiz, Watts and senior author Garavan) determined that binge drinking at age 16 could be predicted at age 14 by employing novel analytic methods and a wide range of measures. The study is distinguished by having a large sample size and by showing that a range of measures (genetic, brain, personality, family history of drug use, history of stressful life events) contributed to the prediction thus showing how broad the range of risk factors for adolescent binge drinking might be. The study is one of the first to employ appropriate analytic methods to identify robust predictors of alcohol misuse and helps disentangle the causes from the consequences of use. More details here.


VCBH Researcher, Hugh Garavan Ph.D., Participates with the ENIGMA Consortium


The ENIGMA consortium seeks to identify brain-gene associations by pooling data from labs worldwide.  Currently, over 300 scientists from over 185 labs in over 30 countries have contributed data thus providing the statistical power necessary to detect the genetic correlates of brain structure and function. A number of separate working groups have been created within ENIGMA- some focusing on methodological issues while others on specific psychiatric conditions. Hugh Garavan, a member of the VCBH based in the Psychiatry department in UVM, and Patricia Conrod (University of Montreal) have created an Addictions working group.  Funded by an NIH R21 grant to Garavan, this working group will search for genes that are associated with drug addiction.  The UVM team will explore if there are genes associated with a non-specific predisposition to addiction or genes that are drug-specific explaining, for example, the differences in drug preferences across individuals.  Questions concerning this can be best addressed by maximizing the statistical power afforded by the large data pooling effort.


New VCBH Grant Focuses on Reducing Unintended Pregnancy Among Opioid-Maintained Women 


Nearly 9 of every 10 pregnancies among opioid-dependent women are unplanned, says Sarah Heil, Ph.D., a founding Coinvestigator of the VCBH. Adding to the many costly adverse consequences of unintended pregnancy, infants born to opioid-dependent mothers have a high incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a condition that often requires extended hospitalization for monitoring and treatment. As a result, hospital charges to care for these infants are currently estimated at more than $700 million a year. Heil’s latest project, funded by a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award, will continue development of an innovative intervention that aims to increase use of more effective contraceptives among opioid-maintained women at risk of unintended pregnancy. The research may also produce important new insights into contraceptive decision-making that will aid in the development of more efficacious interventions for other populations of women at risk for unintended pregnancy.


Latest VCBH Publication on Financial Incentives to Help Pregnant Women Stop Smoking Featured in the Huffington Post


VCBH Director Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., and colleagues, have developed an effective behavioral economic approach that offers pregnant women who smoke financial incentives to stop. This approach was published this month in Preventive Medicine. Since its publication, Dr. Higgins was featured in the Huffington Post speaking about the implications of this novel research. In the article, he commented on the delicate use of financial incentives, "When you do incentive programs, you've got to offer a meaningful amount or you don't get a response. And you usually get a better response with still larger amounts." Read more >>


New VCBH Grant Focuses on Treatments for Wait-Listed Opioid-Dependent Vermonters


Nearly 1,000 Vermonters are currently wait-listed for treatment in Vermont and many more desperately need treatment but don’t bother to join a waitlist once they learn of the lengthy delay to treatment, says Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., who directs Vermont’s first and largest methadone clinic and is a founding Coinvestigator of the VCBH at UVM. Sigmon's latest project, funded by a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award, will develop a novel Interim Buprenorphine Treatment to help opioid-dependent Vermonters bridge challenging waitlist delays. She’s proposed a treatment “package” of five key components designed to maximize patient access to evidence-based medication for opioid dependence while minimizing common barriers to treatment success, including risks of medication non-adherence, abuse and diversion. Read more >>


Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., Quoted as a National Expert on the Treatment of Heroin Addiction in Rural America 


University of Vermont Associate Professor of Psychiatry and COBRE Grant Core Director Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D. was quoted in the Tufts University Observer's recent article, "Heroin Use in Vermont." In this article, Dr. Sigmon provides expert insight on predictors of heroin abuse and addiction. She also notes that the use of heroin is more an issue of "availability or cost rather than clear preference.” Read more >>


Phil Ades, MD, Featured in Wall Street Journal Article on Cardiac Rehabilitation for Heart Failure 


Associate Director of the COBRE Grant at the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health and University of Vermont Professor of Medicine Philip Ades, M.D., a cardiologist and director of cardiac rehabilitation at Fletcher Allen Health Care, is featured in a front-page “Personal Journal” section article that appeared in the April 1, 2014 Wall Street Journal. Ades, in conjunction with the principal investigator Diann Gaalema, is currently conducting a study through UVM’s Vermont Center on Behavior and Health, to provide financial incentives to patients on Medicaid to attend cardiac rehab exercise sessions. Research evidence, says Ades, shows that this population does not attend CR or do exercise. Early results show promise for the incentivized program. The project is funded by UVM’s Center on Biomedical Research Excellence IDeA award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH under grant number P20GM12345). Read more >>


Phil Ades, MD, VCBH Associate Director and Professor of Medicine, Lectures at the Mayo Clinic


Phil Ades, MD, Associate Director of the COBRE Grant at the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health and Professor of Medicine, gave two notable lectures at the Mayo Clinic on January 22, 2014. The first was a Medical Grand Rounds lecture on the topic of "The Future of Cardiac Rehabilitation/Secondary Prevention Programs". His second talk delivered to the Mayo Cardiovascular Society was part of the Gau Lectureship on Preventive Cardiology and addressed "Obesity and Weight Loss in Coronary Patients."




JAMA Psychiatry Study Evaluates Outpatient Detoxification in Prescription Opioid Abusers 

A recently-published study by VCBH faculty shows that patients addicted to prescription painkillers may respond favorably to a carefully-crafted, four-week buprenorphine taper plus naltrexone maintenance treatment. These clinical trial results were reported by Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D. and colleagues and published in the October 23, 2013 Online First edition of the journal JAMA Psychiatry.Abuse of prescription opioid drugs, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone, are a serious public health problem. Since 1990, drug overdose death rates have more than tripled in the U.S., with nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses caused by prescription painkillers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sigmon and colleagues conducted a 12-week randomized clinical trial in an outpatient research clinic with 70 prescription opioid-dependent patients to compare the efficacy of varying durations of outpatient detoxification. After a two-week period of stabilization on buprenorphine, an opioid agonist medication, patients were randomized to gradually reduce the dose of the buprenorphine over one, two or four weeks followed by treatment with naltrexone, a drug that blocks opioid receptors and prevents a return to opioid dependence. Patients in all groups also received individual behavioral therapy, HIV and hepatitis education, and urinalysis monitoring. The study findings indicate that opioid abstinence was greater in patients receiving the four-week taper compared with the two- and one-week taper conditions. These results suggest that a meaningful subset of prescription opioid abusers may respond favorably to outpatient treatment with buprenorphine detoxification in combination with naltrexone and behavioral therapy, say Sigmon and her colleagues.

VCBH Receives $34.7 Million in Funding for Behavioral Health Research

Professor of Psychiatry Stephen T. Higgins, Ph.D., and colleagues received an unprecedented $34.7 million in funding for behavior and health-related research that will be housed in the VCBH at the University of Vermont. On Monday, the College announced the receipt of an $11.5 million NIH Institutional Development Award COBRE grant. On Thursday, the FDA and NIH announced that UVM is one of 14 institutions to receive a TCORS award, bringing an additional $19.5 million to the University. In addition, Dr. Higgins received notice of a $3.7 million NIH award to study smoking cessation incentives in disadvantaged pregnant women.

UVM's VCBH Awarded $19.5 Million to Study Tobacco

The VCBH received $19.5 million in funding from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today as part of an on-going interagency partnership. UVM officials announced today the school is one of 14 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS), which are receiving a total of up to $53 million for tobacco-related research in fiscal 2013. The TCORS are designed to generate research to inform the regulation of tobacco products and protect public health. Stephen T. Higgins, PhD, Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry will direct the center with John R. Hughes, MD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry serving as associate director, assisted by internationally recognized collaborators and consultants from Brown University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Minnesota, and University of Pittsburgh. The Vermont TCOR will focus on researching tobacco products in vulnerable populations, including economically disadvantaged women of childbearing age/pregnant women, individuals with other substance use disorders, and individuals with serious mental illness, all of whom are at increased risk for smoking and its adverse health effects. Yet despite these serious vulnerabilities, these populations are typically excluded from tobacco regulatory studies. For the FDA to effectively execute its tobacco regulatory responsibilities, it must have sound scientific evidence on how existing and new tobacco products impact vulnerable populations. Providing that information will be the mission of the Vermont TCOR.

New COBRE Grant Funded

Stephen Higgins, Ph.D. of Psychiatry and Philip Ades, M.D. of Cardiology are pleased to announce the awarding of a $11.5 million COBRE research grant from the National Institutes of Health to support development of the VCBH. This center studies the relationships between personal behaviors and risk for chronic disease and premature death. This grant will support research projects led by five outstanding UVM junior faculty that include studies of weight control in breast cancer patients and overweight pregnant women; an intervention to increase cardiac rehabilitation participation in Medicaid patients; a study of heart disease risk in women with breast cancer and a study of the origins of obesity and heart disease risk in childhood psychiatric syndromes. Directors of individual projects include Drs. Gaalema and Althoff of Psychiatry, Drs. Dittus and Lakoski of Medical Oncology and Dr. Phillips of Obstetrics. These investigators will receive mentoring by outstanding UVM scholars including Drs. Harvey-Berino of Nutrition, Hudziak of Psychiatry, and Bernstein of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences. Dr. Sigmon of Psychiatry will oversee a behavioral economics research core to support these investigators and others on the UVM campus and she and Dr. Higgins will co-direct a collaboration and dissemination core that focused on tackling health-related behavior problems with regional, state, national, and international colleagues.  A highly accomplished team of UVM internal and external scientists (i.e., Brown University, University of Kentucky, Johns Hopkins University, University of California at San Francisco, University of New York at Buffalo, Virginia Tech University) will also contribute to this vibrant center of research excellence. In summary, the VCBH integrates an interdisciplinary group of accomplished senior scientists, promising junior investigators, and distinguished advisors and collaborators to establish a center of excellence in an area of clinical research that is vitally important to U.S. public health. Read more >>


Last modified May 05 2016 12:07 PM