Psychology and Medicine: An integrative research approach

Investigator: Nancy Adler, PhD
Sponsor: NIH National Institute of Mental Health

Location(s): United States


This program will train post-doctoral researchers to study how the social environment and its impact on the brain and body affect the occurrence of mental illness and physical diseases. Through courses and research experience in interdisciplinary teams, they will learn how to use this knowledge to develop novel approaches to prevent, treat and cure mental illnesses.

This post-doctoral training program, currently in its 19th year, trains scientists to conduct interdisciplinary research at the intersection of Psycholog and Medicine. In line with the NIMH strategic plan's emphasis on translational and clinical research, the program trains fellows to conduct translational research on the interactions between genetic, behavioral, and experiential factors that promote illness and mental health. Fellows learn to apply psychological theories and cutting-edge research methodologies to address issues in (1) stress, depression, and psychobiology and (2) health-risk behavior, as they relate to the prevention and amelioration of diseases including major depression, PTSD, and AIDS. In so doing, they are exposed to problems related to health disparities and approaches to developing and testing interventions. During the two years of training, fellows share a common didactic core including the Psychology and Medicine Seminar; Research Process Seminar; Mind and Biology; Responsible Conduct of Research; six statistics modules, and take additional courses as needed. They conduct independent research with the supervision of a primary mentor, submit papers for publication and presentation at national conferences, and complete a draft of a grant application. The program benefits from its placement in a leading health science campus, with strong training and research programs in the biological, social/behavioral and clinical sciences. Other strengths of the program include: a top-rank faculty who are committed to training and model collaborative transdisciplinary work; ample opportunities for cross-fertilization with fellows and faculty from other programs; and access to key databases and to seed funds for pilot research. The program has produced outstanding, productive young researchers who have gone on to productive careers in medical or academic centers. During our current five year cycle, we have increased research on depression, PTSD and other mental illnesses; enhanced training in psychobiological mechanisms that link stress, psychological/social processes and behavior with mental and physical disorders; increased intervention research and research on disparities and recruited our first psychiatrist. In the renewal we have reduced and reorganized faculty to create a more coherent program, appointed an Associate Director, added additional biostatisticians, established more formal ties to the Psychiatry residency research track, and made more active plans for recruiting underrepresented minorities. In our renewal cycle we plan for three new fellows a year, which will allow us to recruit both psychologists and psychiatrists.