June 16, 2006

Addiction research training consortium taking shape

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Kelly Willenberg, R.N., M.B.A.

Addiction research training consortium taking shape

Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Meharry Medical School have received funding to begin a research training program for addiction psychiatrists to become well versed in several different areas of research.

The Addiction Psychiatry Interdisciplinary Research Training (APIRT) program is a consortium between the two schools to provide training for addiction psychiatrists embarking on combined clinical research careers in an era of increasingly specialized clinical practice, neuroimaging approaches and powerful genetic paradigms.

Two trainees will participate each year — one from Vanderbilt and the other from Meharry — entering the program after completing training in clinical addiction psychiatry.

The areas of focus will be neuroimaging, genetics and molecular medicine and biomedical informatics.

The purpose is to incorporate research requirements into clinical training.

“The next generation of physicians will be faced with a veritable tsunami of data from emerging biomedical technologies with which clinical observations must be reconciled to refine the diagnosis and treatment of their patients,” says Peter Martin, M.D., professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology and director of the Division of Addiction Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry. “Few psychiatrists have chosen an academic path that allows them to apply the ever expanding body of scientific knowledge about addiction to clinical practice,” he said.

“What's different from other research training grants is that our trainees will not become intimately involved in one lab,” Martin says. “Instead, they will spend short periods of time in at least two or three laboratories under the tutelage of the people who run them, so they can understand what's being done there, but not become expert in that particular area.

“Their expertise will be linking the different intellectual areas. They will provide the mortar between the bricks, learning how to bring disciplines together in a problem that has relevance to clinical work.”

The APIRT program is being set up to blend in with clinical training using a fast-track method, where a participant will complete four years of adult psychiatric training in three years, will do addiction psychiatry training during the fourth year, and will use the fifth and sixth years for research.

The participants, who will be identified at the beginning of their psychiatric training, can do their research at Vanderbilt, Meharry or both. Lee Limbird, vice president for Research and chair of a new Department of Biomedical Sciences at Meharry, will serve as the co-director of the program.

“This is a novel idea, training people like this,” Martin said. “The idea is unique — training linkers rather than experts in one particular area. The kind of person who will go through this program will be the kind of individual who can lead multidisciplinary research teams. But the ultimate goal here is to improve the treatment of addiction.”