Behavioral Science Training in Drug Abuse Research
Ross Aikins, PhD. received his Ph.D. from UCLA in Education in 2011 with a specialty in Higher Education and Organizational Change. His dissertation was a qualitative exploration of the perceptions and habits of college students who use ADHD stimulant medications and other so-called "nootropic" drugs, both licit and illicitly. He is currently the Chair-Elect of the American College Health Association's (ACHA) Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Coalition, and he also currently manages data for ongoing projects at UCLA's Integrated Substance Abuse Program (ISAP) on treatment-seeking prescription drug users. His primarily research interests concern the functional use of drugs for enhancement purposes and broader issues related to the distribution and use of enhancement technologies in society.
Victoria Barry, PsyD. Dr. Barry received her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from La Salle University in September 2011. Her research focuses on behavioral medicine, with specific interests in women's health and illness prevention. She has contributed to a number of research initiatives in medical settings and has authored numerous presentations and publications related to primary care, oncology, HIV/AIDS, obstetrics/gynecology and tobacco cessation. Dr. Barry's doctoral dissertation investigated the relationship between disease specific knowledge of the Human Papillomavirus and consistent condom use in college aged women. She will be interning in the Center for Technology and Health on projects with Bethany Raiff and Michelle Acosta.
Stephanie Campos This predoctoral fellow is ABD in Cultural Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). Stephanie’s dissertation committee consists of CUNY Graduate Center professors Leith Mullings, Mark Edelman and Ida Susser. Stephanie has completed fieldwork on her dissertation “Small Village/Large Hell: Incarceration and Gendered Work in an Illicit Economy.” Her dissertation explores the ways in which a woman’s economic and social position in the Santa Monica prison in Lima, Perú is shaped by her labor in the global illicit drug trade. She investigates how work in the transnational cocaine commodity chain is structured by race, class, gender and nationality and how women are inserted into particular “links” of this chain based on the intersections of these systems of power. Stephanie argues that the labor a woman performs in this chain determines her pathway into the prison as well as her socio-economic position inside the prison. Through ethnographic research, she explores how these inequalities are reproduced and lived out in Santa Monica, a site where the majority of women—from a variety of countries—are incarcerated on drug trafficking charges. This project will contribute to a larger understanding of the relationship between processes of globalization and incarceration. She presented papers based on her dissertation at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) The Society for Applied Anthropology (SFAA).
Martin Downing, PhD received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the City University of New York in 2010. In his dissertation, Dr. Downing explored potential HIV risk factors of men who have sex with men (MSM) who frequent commercial and public sex venues (e.g., bathhouses, sex clubs, bars, public parks). Specifically, he examined associations between high-risk behavior during venue attendance and the physical and social environment of sex venues, HIV risk perceptions, as well as frequency of Internet use to pursue public sexual encounters. Dr. Downing’s prospective research agenda includes an extension of this work to investigate substance use and concomitant sexual risk behaviors in the context of sex venue encounters, particularly among out-of-treatment HIV-negative patrons. This research could generate feasibility studies of venue-based interventions that augment existing programs, including outreach campaigns and HIV/STI counseling and testing.
David Frank David’s research focuses on how drug addiction and treatment are constituted through practice and discourse. His dissertation examines the increasing use of recovery as an organizational principle within drug treatment modalities, particularly Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT). It will examine how well discourses centered on recovery align with the motivations of individuals participating in methadone programs, and their place within larger cultural discourses on substance use and addiction. It will also examine the potential for symbolic violence through the marginalization of individuals described as deviant by recovery narratives. David is currently in the early stages of his dissertation while pursuing his PhD at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Camila Gelpi-Acosta, PhD has previously worked at NDRI as the lead ethnographer/Project Director for the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance study (Hagan, PI). She is a co-author of four articles from this project. She also conducted ethnographic work on “Perceptions of Genetic Testing and Genomic Medicine among Urban Drug Users” (Perlman and Hagan, PIs). Her ethnographic dissertation explores NYC street heroin users’ understandings of their continued heroin use and compares these to a “medical disease” discourse and secondary data on upper-middle class heroin users. She proposes a theory using Bourdieu’s concept “habitus,” in which street addicts’ emotional, identity and thinking dispositions underpin their continued heroin use.
April Henning is a doctoral candidate (ABD) at the Graduate Center of CUNY. This dissertation, “Untested: Doping, Bodies, and Non-Elite Road Racing,” will consider the ways doped bodies are produced within a sporting context set against neoliberal systems of governance. She will focus on the ways non-elite runners conceptualize doping and drug use in sports, as well as their perceptions of health and ethics as related to substance use in athletics. It will analyze the anti-doping discourses non-elite athletes engage with as they negotiate formal and informal, often competing, codes of conduct that govern road racing. Her adviser for this interview-based project is Dr. Victoria Pitts-Taylor.
Heidi Hoefinger, PhD This postdoctoral fellow's research is interdisciplinary and focuses on gender and sexuality, subculture, drug use, nighttime economies, and ‘intimate’ ethnography. She has conducted extensive research in Cambodia, among two distinct populations: young women employed in the sex and entertainment sectors, and male and female Cambodian-American refugee deportees. Despite vast gendered and structural constraints, pervasive sexual violence, stigma, depression, drug use and self-harming, the female ‘bar girls’ and sex workers use global feminine youth culture, consumption, linguistic ability, subculture, and interpersonal relationships to not only survive, but make socioeconomic advancements, and find enjoyment in their lives. The Cambodian-American deportees were born in Cambodian prisons and labor camps, or Thai refugee camps during the Khmer Rouge genocide, went to the USA as political refugees, became involved in gangs and other illegal activity as a result of social exclusion, and entered the penal system. After the passing of controversial immigration policy in 1996, they were deported in shackles to Cambodia—a country many had never stepped foot in.
Alexis Jemal Since entering the Rutgers’ PhD program, Alexis has cultivated her research interests in oppression and health-related outcomes. Her first project explored whether CBT was an effective substance use intervention for Black and Latino populations. She currently conducts intervention research in Newark, NJ using community-based participatory research methods. Her work emphasizes empowerment and the development of critical consciousness as a way to address structural and internalized oppression, as well as the impact of oppression on individual-level outcomes. Her research interests include stress-coping, trauma, HIV/AIDS, substance use, health and sexual health risk behaviors amongst racial minority, military/veteran, and/or ex-offender populations.
Rebecca Linn-Walton, MSW
Rebecca's dissertation will assess client-specific factors affecting counseling rapport/therapeutic alliance for individuals in drug treatment with a history of criminal offense. She plans to analyze a dataset created by Kevin Knight at Texas Christian University, using a questionnaire about treatment experience for individuals in drug treatment programs with a history of incarceration. She will analyze how criminal thinking, motivation, and insight affect rapport/alliance levels for this population. She received her MSW from Columbia University School of Social Work in 2009, and is currently ABD at Fordham University's Graduate School of Social Service. Her specific area of interest is the therapeutic alliance and counseling rapport.
Katherine McLean, MS This predoctoral fellow (appointed September 2010) is ABD in the Doctoral Program in Sociology at the Graduate Center of CUNY. Her dissertation, “Reducing Risk, Producing Selves: Drug Use and Identity in Harm Reduction,” examines needle exchange as a site of both behavior modification and subjectivity production. It will also document the diverse messages around risk that circulate throughout a specific harm reduction site. She is using participant observation and interviewing at a needle exchange program in New York City. Her sponsor and dissertation advisor at the Graduate Center is Dr. Victoria Pitts-Taylor. Preliminary results show that participation in harm reduction shapes clients’ self-conceptions, though in manner that is hardly straight forward: where many program participants actively adopt an identity of “drug user” or “drug addict,” others may strategically slip into and out of this category, depending upon their audience. The ethnographic component of this research has further shown that clients use harm reduction programs for a multiplicity of ends that may have little to do with public health. In addition to her dissertation, Ms. McLean has been working as a research assistant in the Anthropology Department of John Jay College where she has been conducting a secondary analysis of drug user social networks for a NIDA-funded grant on the stabilization of HIV in injection drug user populations.
Cory Morton, PhD received his Doctorate in Social Work from Rutgers University in May, 2012. His dissertation investigated the primary prevention of child maltreatment by increasing accessibility to substance abuse treatment. Dr. Morton’s research focuses on the community context of substance abuse and how prevention efforts may be targeted to the built environment of neighborhoods. He has had several articles published that apply geographic information systems and advanced geospatial and multilevel modeling to investigate the siting strategies of tobacco retailers. Dr. Morton’s other research interests include racial and ethnic disproportionality in the child welfare system and the evaluation of community-driven substance abuse prevention efforts.
Valerie Newsome, PhD received her Doctorate in Biobehavioral Health from Penn State University in 2013. Her research addresses cultural influences on health behavior, as well as the structural contributors to disparities in health across race and gender. She has co-authored various papers and presentations addressing HIV/AIDS in the United States and South Africa. In her dissertation, "Educated and At-Risk: How the Shortage of Available Male Partners Influences HIV Risk for Unmarried College-Educated African-American Women Ages 25-34," Dr. Newsome used qualitative and quantitative methods to explore the psychosocial and structural factors influencing HIV risk among economically stable African-American women of child-bearing age. This distinct group of African-American women is of particular concern as they are largely absent from the discourse on HIV prevention, and are instrumental in the building and preservation of African-American communities, while HIV remains the leading cause of death for their age and racial group. This work suggests that a more targeted prevention approach may be necessary to address this sub-group of women with respect to their unique behavioral and situational risks for HIV.
Michael Polson This dissertation, provisionally entitled “Making Marijuana: Il/legality and Medicalization in Northern California’s Political Economy”, offers insight into how state, medical, and market actors in and around the marijuana economy of northern California negotiate and define concepts of law and medicine. Designed as a network analysis, the project explores the forces that are structuring marijuana production, distribution, and ultimately consumption so as to illuminate a broad social understanding of shifts in the practices, ideas, institutions and networks surrounding marijuana in the region and throughout the US.
Yusuf Ransome This dissertation explores the question, what post migration adjustment factors predict HIV-related behaviors among West Indian Black immigrants? These factors include: individuals’ socioeconomic status, levels of acculturation, substance use, cultural norms about sex and gender roles, neighborhood residence, and the social and economic characteristics of those neighborhoods.
Vivian C. Smith, M.A. While a predoctoral fellow in the BST program, Dr. Smith defended her dissertation entitled: “Substance-abusing Women Offenders as Victims: Chronological Sequencing of Pathways into Criminal Behavior.” This study used Life Course Theory (LCT) and Feminist Pathway Theory. The data came from Dr. Falkin’s NIDA R01, informally called Project WORTH (Women‘s Option for Recovery Treatment and Health). The sample (n=1,209) consisted of women in the criminal justice system, classified as substance abusers. Bivariate, logistic, multinomial logistic regression and negative binomial regression found that there were eight pathways from childhood drug use and victimization and criminal involvement in adulthood. The most dominant pathway to crime among these women is one in which drug use preceded arrest without the presence of childhood abuse. The second highest populated pathway reflected the feminist pathway theory‘s main premise; childhood victimization triggers drug use and entrance into crime. The findings are consistent with prior research suggesting that women‘s paths to crime differ. Results also challenge the position of childhood victimization in women‘s pathways into crime and assert that women victimized during childhood have a greater disadvantage given additional risk factors embedded within that pathway. Ms. Pacheco has presented her findings at the American Society of Criminology and Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conferences. She also received the Graduate Student Excellence Award from Rutgers University in 2008 and a grant from Rutgers-School of Criminal Justice to study the health patterns of women who take care of children of incarcerated parents 2009. Having earned her doctorate from Rutgers University, Dr. Smith was promoted to a postdoc in the BST program where she will write articles based on her dissertation as well as collaborate on research projects at NDRI and Rutgers.
Pacheco, V. (2009). Crack Moms. In Encyclopedia of Race and Crime. Chicago: Sage Publications.
Morris, P. and Pacheco, V. (2009). Stop Snitching Campaign. In Encyclopedia of Race and Crime. Chicago: Sage Publications.
Kelly Szott, MA is currently writing her dissertation proposal to study “The Intersection of Injection Drug Users and Medical Institutions.” This qualitative study will examine the barriers IDUs encounter when accessing medical care, especially focusing on stigmatization. It will analyze the medical discourse and health care practices that affect patients who are perceived as having “deviant” bodies. A this point, Kelly has done considerable work on her literature review. She will move from Syracuse to NYC by the end of February to begin participating in BST meetings and conducting preliminary field research to support her proposal. From 2005 to 2007, Kelly was a Senior Research Assistant at Beth Israel Medical Center with Dr. Don Des Jarlais on two NIH studies: "Community Health and Healthcare" and "Acute Hepatitits C Virus Infection in Injecting Drug Users."