Researchers from Across the Region Gathered for the Bridging Connections in Addiction Research Networking and Scientific Retreat

On February 1, 2023, more than a hundred attendees joined the Bridging Connections in Addiction Research (BCAR) Networking and Scientific Retreat at the University Club. This year's event was sponsored by the Appalachian Node of the NIDA Clinical Trials network with additional support from the School of Pharmacy's Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) and UPMC Health Plan. This event shined a spotlight on cutting edge addiction research across scientific disciplines and provided opportunities for researchers and trainees to expand their professional networks and knowledge in the study of addiction.

The retreat kicked off with a keynote address by Jeffrey Samet, MD, MA, MPH, John Noble, MD Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Boston University. Dr. Samet conducts national and international research on advancing care for individuals with HIV and Substance Use Disorder and serves as the PI of two NIDA R25 grants to advance physician addiction education and research. Dr. Samet shared his experiences throughout his career and the process of addiction medicine becoming recognized as a subspecialty, as well as the importance of mentoring others at all levels of your career and collaborating across different disciplines.

A highlight of the day included a poster session with 30 presenters sharing research from bench, clinical, and population science disciplines. Three Best Poster recognitions were awarded: Brooke Bender, BS (Pitt Psychiatry) for the poster titled Dopamine and Calcium-Indicated Activity in the Dorsal Striatum During the Transition to DLS Dopamine-Dependent Cocaine-Seeking and Pavlovian Cue Extinction; Christina Schulz, PhD (Pitt Anesthesiology) for the poster titled The Association Between Impulsivity, Alcohol Consumption, and Sexual Risk-Taking Through Positive Sex-Related Alcohol Expectancies Among Bisexual Women; and Collin Lehmann, BS (Pitt Psychiatry) for the poster titled Reward Prediction Error Signaling in VTA Dopamine Neurons Following Opioid Exposure.

Attendees then learned about the Center for Adolescent Reward, Rhythms and Sleep (CARRS), the Pitt Pharmacy Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU), and the UPMC Center for High Value Health Care. Each of these research centers demonstrated commitment to fostering addiction research through interdisciplinary collaborations.

Faculty and trainees from Pitt shared updates about pilot studies funded by BCAR. Lead researchers of these studies include Shirley Hill, PhD, Sean Farris, PhD, and Jason Colditz, PhD, MEd. Associate Vice Chancellor for Interdisciplinary Research, Health Sciences, Mark Geraci, MD followed these presentations with key points on the importance of these pilot studies and future interdisciplinary addiction research work.

Five “Flash Talks” rounded out the Retreat’s presentations. Presenters included: BaDoi Phan, BS, (Medical Scientist Training Program, Pitt/CMU); Payel Roy, MD, MSc (Division of General Internal Medicine); Sierra Stringfield, PhD (Center for Neuroscience); Jessica Frankeberger, MPH (Center for Social Dynamics and Community Health); and Ruby Holland, BA (Center for Neuroscience). UPMC’s Chief Medical Officer, James Schuster, MD, MBA, concluded this session with his reflections on the presentations and collaborative opportunities.

The BCAR Networking and Scientific Retreat ended with closing remarks from BCAR’s Co-Chair Daniel Rosen, PhD, MSW and a networking Happy Hour. BCAR is excited to continue holding this retreat for addiction medicine researchers, clinicians, and trainees throughout the region.