In August 2020, the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences received a $50,000 unrestricted gift from an anonymous donor through the Rhode Island Foundation. Department leadership decided to use the gift to support pilot research projects focused on health disparities and work led by faculty members who are underrepresented in medicine, as well as other departmental initiatives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and dismantle racism.
“This gift gave us a much-needed boost to expand our community engagement research efforts and support faculty members of color and/or those working in communities of color. It also allowed us to support several strategic planning, training and educational efforts as we work towards dismantling racism.”
— Ernestine Briggs-King, PhD, Director of DEI
Read on to learn more about the progress our pilot grant recipients have made on their projects and the other activities this generous gift has supported.
Progress on Pilot Research Projects
Alcohol Use and Suicide
Jeremy Grove, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, is dedicated to understanding, preventing and treating suicide and frequently co-occurring conditions such as alcohol use disorder. He aspires to develop an independent research program in reducing socioeconomic disparities in suicide prevention among those with substance abuse disorders.
Dr. Grove’s project is “Use of ecological momentary assessment technology to establish the daily association between acute use of alcohol and suicidal thoughts and behaviors for the eventual development of a smart phone-based just-in-time intervention.”
Dr. Grove has developed the infrastructure to carry out all study procedures—including developing a detailed study operations manual, survey batteries and an application to distribute ecological momentary assessment (EMA) surveys; training study personnel; identifying and solidifying key recruitment sites; and obtaining IRB approval.
The findings from this pilot study will help determine when, how and under what circumstances acute use of alcohol confers risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. They will also help inform the development of a scalable, cost-effective and personalized smartphone-based real-time intervention to prevent suicide among those with alcohol use disorder.
In addition, this pilot award has been pivotal to Dr. Grove’s career, as the project will provide vital pilot data for a National Institute of Health career development award application.
Treatment for Trauma-Exposed Minority Adolescents
Ernestine Briggs-King, PhD, is an associate professor and the director of DEI in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, as well as the Director of Research at Center for Child and Family Health. She’s a clinical/community psychologist with extensive experience in the fields of child maltreatment and child traumatic stress.
Dr. Briggs-King’s project is “Evaluation of a brief trauma-focused group treatment for trauma-exposed minority adolescents.” As part of a larger effort to create a trauma-informed workforce and systems of care, Dr. Briggs-King and her clinical team have completed a series of implementation efforts for mental health providers across the state of North Carolina on several evidence-based treatments.
One intervention that is serving high numbers of adolescents of color, “Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS),” incorporates a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills for adolescents. Dr. Briggs-King and her team have been pilot testing a six-session, skills-based version of the treatment protocol as well as implementing the standard 16-session version of this trauma-focused group treatment.
As part of this project, Dr. Briggs-King and her team will engage community partners, trainees and participating adolescents in developing culturally modified modules for this curriculum. Efforts will include community engagement and participation research strategies, focus groups, feasibility testing and the development of an implementation guide. Progress to date includes initial training for clinicians on the six-session protocol, recruitment of participants and implementation of the intervention with groups. The next phase will include the co-development and pilot-testing of the culturally modified materials.
Dr. Briggs-King’s project will accelerate the development and implementation of a culturally-modified trauma-focused, brief intervention for diverse adolescents in communities where access to high-quality services is non-existent or very limited.
Technology-Assisted Smoking Cessation
Sarah M. Wilson, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, an investigator at the VA Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation, and a clinical psychologist at the Durham VA Health Care System. Her research focuses on testing and implementation of interventions for substance use, psychological symptoms and health behavior change in at-risk populations.
Dr. Wilson’s project is “Evaluation of implementation strategies designed to facilitate uptake and sustainment of an evidence-based, technology-assisted smoking cessation.”
Dr. Wilson will pilot test a package of implementation strategies designed to facilitate uptake and sustainment of an evidence-based, technology-assisted smoking cessation tool at Lincoln Community Health Center (CHC), using a tailored approach to treatment and implementation. She will also provide treatment materials to pediatric healthcare providers with an urgent need to address vaping in adolescents.
Dr. Wilson’s project includes multiple stakeholders and providers. She has engaged in implementation process meetings with a number of leaders and staff members at Lincoln CHC. She has also identified the clinics in which to implement the smoking cessation intervention, met with facility leadership, and prepared the implementation package for deployment.
This study can provide evidence that supports the feasibility of instituting technological implementation strategies within federally qualified health centers to improve delivery of tobacco cessation. Additionally, it will provide vital data for a larger grant application to expand this work.
Other DEI Initiatives Supported by the Gift
Dr. Briggs-King and Annise Weaver, MSEd, CRC—the department’s associate director of DEI—have used some of the anonymous gift to coordinate and/or lead a number of other initiatives, including:
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Speaker Series
A spring speaker series focused on race and language and featured three speakers from the CHEER Collaborative, an organization that aims to build a cadre of leaders who engage in equity-oriented practice and research, build knowledge and collective action plans to dismantle structural inequities and co-create healthy and thriving organizations and communities.
A fall speaker series, presented by Sierra Carter, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Georgia State University, focused on cultural awareness and cultural humility.
Support Sessions and Conversation Groups
Benjamin Reese, PsyD, an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and Ms. Weaver conducted a number of peer support sessions and monthly conversation groups for underrepresented faculty, staff and learners in the department.
DEI-Focused Grand Rounds Speakers
The gift supported the following Grand Rounds speakers this year:
- Patrice Harris, MD, 174th president of the American Medical Association: Physician Leadership during Times of Crisis and Transition
- Walter Bockting, PhD, Columbia School of Nursing: The Role of Mental Health in Gender-Affirming Care for Trans and Non-Binary Adolescents and Adults
- Patrice Douglass, PhD, Duke University: Racial Blackness beyond Interpersonal Definitions and Perceptions
- Gabriela Nagy, PhD, Duke University School of Medicine: Towards an Evidence Base for Interventions to Decrease Stress in Immigrants and Refugees
- Judy Seidenstein, Duke University School of Medicine: The Path towards Inclusive Excellence: Exploring & Navigating Implicit Bias
- Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, Duke University School of Medicine: Pursuing, Teaching, and Adopting Health Equity as a Personal Value
- John Pachankis, PhD, Yale School of Public Health: LGBTQ-Affirmative Mental Health Care: From Theory to Trials to Community Implementation and Global Dissemination
- Wizdom Powell, PhD, Health Disparities Institute, UConn Health: Shifting Pain: Black Men, Masculinities, and Behavioral Health in Times of Uncertainty
DEI-Focused Faculty Training
With support from this gift, two faculty members participated in the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Global Education Institute (GEI) Certified Training Course on Best Practices in Transgender Medical and Mental Health Care.
This course is the gold standard for transgender care training, as it increases access to knowledgeable healthcare providers for the transgender community and includes standards of care, mentorship and implementation supports.
Strategic Planning and Implementation Initiatives
The gift also indirectly supported a number of strategic planning and implementation initiatives. We have successfully completed strategic planning efforts for the department, which includes a pillar that focuses on DEI and culture. These efforts align with the Duke University School of Medicine’s “Moments to Movement” strategic plan.
So far, we have:
- Implemented department-wide training
- Held listening tours
- Provided support groups
- Created additional opportunities for training for faculty, staff and learners
- Hosted a 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge©
- Surveyed our staff about our culture and shifts in practices and behaviors needed to create the learning organization culture we desire as we work towards dismantling racism
- Developed subcommittees to help facilitate implementation efforts focused on hiring, retaining and engaging faculty, staff and learners in this critical work
We’re excited to launch several new initiatives over the next year, including enhancing the DEI section of the departmental website; strengthening relationships with faculty, staff and learners through in-person meetings and trainings; implementing a new mentoring program; and creating a formal DEI council.