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NIDA Home > Publications > Director's Reports > February, 2009 Index    

Director's Report to the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse - February, 2009

Staff Highlights

Staff Honors and Awards

The National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse (NHSN) presented its National Award of Excellence in Public Service to NIDA IP Director Dr. Steven W. Gust on October 2, 2008. The NHSN National Award of Excellence in Public Service recognizes an individual whose work in public service has promoted the development of Hispanic substance abuse researchers and research on drug abuse among Hispanic populations. NHSN cited Dr. Gust's instrumental role in establishing the group's International Subcommittee, attracting more international members and expanding NHSN activities to Latin America.

Dr. Jag Khalsa, DPMCDA, received an award for his contributions in the field of substance abuse and infections from the former President of India at a special reception during the International Conference on Molecular Medicine, Chennai, India, January 19, 2009.

Dr. Jag Khalsa was recently appointed as the member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of HIV/AIDS Research and Palliative Care.

Dr. Amy Newman, IRP, was named the NIDA-IRP Associate Director of Translational Research.

Dr. Rao Rapaka, DBNBR, was awarded the 2008 ISODD Achievement Award in Organic Synthesis and Drug Development. He was cited for his original contributions in research in peptide chemistry/medicinal chemistry, lipidomics, leadership, administrative excellence and foresight.

Dr. George Uhl, IRP, founded the new journal Addiction Reviews, an annual volume that is part of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences series.

Staff Changes

Dr. Will Aklin joined the Behavioral and Integrative Treatment Branch, DCNBR at NIDA in October 2008. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Maryland, and clinical internship at Yale University. He later went on to complete a post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Aklin has received numerous awards and honors, including Early Career Investigator Awards from the College on Problem of Drug Dependence (CPDD) and the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT). Dr. Aklin's research interests include the development of treatments targeting specific processes (e.g., impulsivity, risk-taking), behavioral/combined behavioral and pharmacological treatments, and the transportability of treatments in community settings.

Dr. Scott Chen has joined OEA as Scientific Review Officer. Prior to joining NIDA, he was a Research Fellow at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), studying the effects of corticotrophin-releasing hormone receptor type 1 blockade on stress responses and stress-induced alcohol consumption, using genetic, physiological, and behavioral assays. Collaborations with researchers at American University examined effects of genetic differences, early-life stress, sex differences, and nicotine on alcohol response. Prior to the NIAAA, Dr. Chen was a NIDA NRSA-funded Research Associate at The Scripps Research Institute, focusing his work on motivational aspects of opiate dependence. Dr. Chen received his B.S. in biological sciences from the University of California-Irvine and his M.S. and Ph.D. in applied biopsychology from the University of New Orleans.

Jessica H. Cotto joined OSPC as an Epidemiologist in January 2009. Her primary responsibilities include providing briefings to the Director and other high-level government officials on the use of prescription medications among young and aging populations including, geographical prescription patterns, physician prescribing habits, patient demographics, and prescription medication trends. During the past 6 years, Ms. Cotto has been engaged in a variety of basic science research including the study of heat shock proteins in cardiovascular disease and the signaling pathways of Human IFN-a. She has over 4 years of experience in statistical analysis, procedures and methods, and database management. Prior to NIDA, Ms. Cotto served as a Clinical Research Associate for The Children's National Medical Center, The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and The National Cancer Institute. She is also a co-author on several published scientific manuscripts, some of which have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and The Journal of Interferon and Cytokine Research. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology from San Diego State University and a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from George Washington University.

Dr. Lori Ducharme joined NIDA in September 2008. Prior to joining NIDA, Dr. Ducharme was on the research faculty at the University of Georgia, where she was part of a collaborative investigator team studying the organization, delivery, and quality of addiction treatment services in the nation's specialty behavioral health care system. At NIDA, Dr. Ducharme manages a portfolio of research studies that focus on the organization and management of addiction treatment programs; practice improvement in community-based organizations; and implementation research.

Dr. Minna Liang has joined OEA as a Scientific Review Officer. Dr. Liang has worked as a research scientist in several scientific disciplines including neuroscience, medical genetics and virology/immunology, and her peer-reviewed publications can be found in a number of journals including the Journal of Neuroscience, Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Prior to joining OEA, Dr. Liang was a project director with a biotechnology consulting firm in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and prior to that position, she worked as a staff fellow/associate at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She completed her post-doctoral training in human molecular genetics at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and Georgetown University Medical Center. Dr. Liang holds a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from Tulane University.

Dr. Jacqueline Lloyd recently joined the staff in DESPR's Prevention Research Branch as a Health Scientist Administrator. Dr. Lloyd received a Ph.D. in public health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Master in Social Work from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. She completed a post doctoral fellowship with the Treatment Research Institute in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Dr. Lloyd came to NIDA from Temple University, where she was an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Administration. Dr. Louise Wideroff recently joined DESPR's Epidemiology Research Branch. Dr. Wideroff is an epidemiologist who earned her doctorate in epidemiology from the University of Michigan and was a post-doctoral fellow in the intramural program at NCI. Prior to coming to NIDA, Dr. Wideroff was on assignment at the National Human Genome Research Institute, assisting with management of the GENEVA cooperative agreements in GEI. For the past 11 years, she has been a Program Director at the National Cancer Institute, specializing in assessment of genetic and molecular risk factors for cancer, and the adoption of emerging cellular, molecular, and genomic technologies in clinical care.

Dr. Rita Liu, OEA, retired from Government service in November 2008 after 20 years at NIDA. She served as the NIDA Referral Officer, the Referral Liaison to the NIH Center for Scientific Review and as Scientific Review Officer for the NIDA Centers Review Committee and conducted reviews of many complex activities. Dr. Liu was co-chair of the NIDA Neuroscience Consortium Working Group that promotes cutting-edge neuroscience and coordinates NIDA activities at the Society for Neuroscience annual meetings. She co-edited the Special Issues of Neuropharmacology in 2004 commemorating NIDA's 30th and, in 2008, the 35th anniversaries. Prior to joining NIDA in 1988, she held faculty positions at Georgetown University and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. She was trained as a dentist in the National Taiwan University Medical College and received a M.S. in Oral Pathology and Anatomy from Emory University. While working in the Neuroanatomy laboratory of Dr. Muriel Ross at the University of Michigan, she decided to pursue research in neuroscience and obtained a Ph.D. from Georgetown University. Dr. Liu received numerous honors from NIDA and NIH, and she was recognized with the Michael J. Morrison Award, presented at the 2008 of the CPDD, for outstanding contributions in the area of scientific administration related to drugs of abuse.

Dr. Charlie Sharp, DBNBR, announced his retirement on October 31, 2008. Charlie has had a major impact on the field of drug abuse and addiction in many areas. He leaves a lasting influence on the field through his contributions to the training of young scientists and to the development and support of basic AIDS and inhalant research. Charlie Sharp has a long and distinguished history at NIDA starting with the Institute's inception in 1974. He is currently Special Assistant to the Division Director and DBNBR Training Coordinator wherein he directs and oversees the DBNBR NRSA program. Training the next generation of scientists is Charlie's passion - fellowships, traineeships and career development awards have comprised a major focus of his career. For many years, Charlie has developed and overseen DBNBR's research portfolio on HIV/AIDS and neuroimmunology, and as the programs grew to include other program officers, Charlie continued to contribute his wisdom and leadership to the success of these programs. Also, he along with several extramural researchers organized the first conferences in 1989 and 1992 dedicated specifically to an exploration of the role of drugs of abuse in modulating immune function.

Dr. Frank Vocci, Director, DPMCDA, retired from NIDA effective January 2, 2009, after more than 30 years of Government service. Dr. Vocci was responsible for instituting research and development activities for medications targeted for the treatment of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine and opiate dependence. Frank Vocci began his career working in the Clinical Neurophysiology Laboratory in the Department of Neurology at the University of Maryland while pursuing his graduate degree. After receiving his doctoral degree and post-graduate training in pharmacology, Dr. Vocci was employed from 1978 to 1989 by the Food and Drug Administration in the Division of Neuropharmacological Drug Products. In addition to his duties as an FDA reviewer, Dr. Vocci was also a guest researcher in the Clinical Neurosciences Branch of the National Institute on Mental Health, and an ad hoc consultant to the NIDA and the World Health Organization. Beginning in July 1989, he was affiliated with the Medications Development Program (now the DPMCDA) at NIDA where he then served as Director. During his years at NIDA, Dr. Vocci has authored and co-authored over 50 articles in the field of neuropharmacology and substance abuse. He has conducted more than 100 presentations at professional conferences and meetings, and has been interviewed by hundreds of national and local print and broadcast media outlets on behalf of the Institute, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, and National Public Radio. Beginning January 1, 2009, Dr. Vocci became President of the Friends Research Institute (FRI), which promotes health and well-being through research, grants administration, education and treatment. Researchers at FRI receive federal, state, county, and private funding to conduct studies in the fields of substance abuse, health, HIV/AIDS, mental health, and criminal justice.

Dr. David McCann has been appointed as Acting Director of DPMCDA. A national search is underway to fill the position on a permanent basis.


Research Findings

Program Activities

Extramural Policy and Review Activities

Congressional Affairs

International Activities

Meetings and Conferences

Media and Education Activities

Planned Meetings


Staff Highlights

Grantee Honors

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