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Newsmakers 2002

Record research grants

Nancy Mello, PhD, co-director of McLean's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center and director of the Behavioral Science Laboratory, was awarded a $6.4-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The goal of her five-year investigation is to examine novel pharmacological and biological approaches to the treatment of cocaine and polydrug abuse.

Several months after Mello's award, Roger Weiss, MD, director of McLean's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program, was awarded a $7.7-million grant from NIDA, making it the largest federally funded research grant ever received by McLean. The five-year grant establishes the hospital as the center of a clinical trials network in New England that is part of NIDA's Clinical Trials Network. The project involves a partnership between academic researchers and clinical care programs throughout New England, as part of a larger network. The goal is to work collaboratively to design and implement addiction treatment studies in community programs so that patients receive the full benefit of the evolving science of addiction care. The studies will determine the effectiveness of a variety of treatment approaches in a broad range of settings.

Childhood schizophrenia study is first in nation

Jean Frazier, MD, director of McLean's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research Program, was awarded a $1.6-million grant by the National Institute of Mental Health to study the effectiveness, safety and tolerability of three medications for the treatment of early-onset schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. While these disorders more commonly first present in early adulthood, they nonetheless affect approximately one of every 5,000 children.

The grant is centered at McLean and will be a five-year collaborative study with researchers from the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Washington. The study is the first to compare medication treatments in children with psychotic disorders. It will also assess the effects of the medications on a child's ability to pay attention and learn over the course of the yearlong treatment.

PR award recognizes legislative campaign

McLean President and Psychistrist in Chief Bruce Cohen, MD, PhD, being interviewed by the media at a State House rally.

The McLean Public Affairs staff received a first-place award from the Publicity Club of New England, the region's largest PR, communications and marketing professional organization, for a grassroots effort it launched with hospital administration in the fall of 2001 to decry cuts to the state's mental health budget.

Through McLean's organization of and attendance at State House rallies, its letter writing campaigns, its presence in the media and its work with the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Massachusetts, the hospital helped to contribute to the reinstatement of a significant portion of $24 million in mental health cuts for FY2002.

Specialty program aims to recruit nurses

To bring more nurses into psychiatric nursing and to McLean, the hospital's Nursing Department created the Psychiatric Nursing Specialty Program. This yearlong curriculum and practicum is designed for new graduate nurses or for experienced nurses interested in changing clinical practice settings to psychiatric nursing. The program offers an extensive orientation, featuring educational seminars as well as a structured, supportive transition to the psychiatric staff nurse role.

Benes earns dual honors

Francine Benes, MD, PhD, director of McLean's Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center and director of the Program in Structural and Molecular Neuroscience, was selected by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to receive a MERIT award. The highly coveted award extends Benes' federally funded research project on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder for an additional five years, bringing the total amount of the 10-year grant to $4 million.

Benes was also the recipient of the 2002 Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research. The $50,000 cash prize, awarded annually by the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, recognizes schizophrenia researchers who have provided leadership in the field. McLean Hospital and Yale University share the distinction of being the only institutions to have two winners of this prize. Philip Holzman, PhD, co-director of the Psychology Research Laboratory, won the prize in 1988.

Brown named first mental health doc to Boston Marathon medical team

On Monday, April 21, 2003, 15,000 runners converged upon the Boston Marathon's starting line in Hopkinton, Mass. Waiting for them 26.2 miles down the road at the finish line was the marathon medical team, including McLean psychologist Jeff Brown, PsyD, ABPP.

In 2002, Brown, a member of the McLean-Franciscan Child and Adolescent Mental Health Programs, was the first mental health clinician in marathon history to be named to the volunteer medical team.

Becoming a member of the medical team did not happen overnight. Four years ago, Brown, with the help of McLean's Internal Medicine Director Arthur Siegel, MD, a decade-long member of the marathon medical team, wrote a proposal outlining how a psychologist could provide crisis intervention for runners and their families, deal with the emotional stresses of the race and help people move through the triage tent. The proposal was accepted by marathon medical team chief Marvin Adner, MD, in January 2002.

Antidepressant patch could become standard treatment

Thanks in part to research conducted at McLean, depression sufferers may have a new treatment available. Alec Bodkin, MD, director of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Research Program, conducted a study looking at the effectiveness of a new transdermal patch that provides an antidepressant drug through the skin rather than in traditional pill form. Many of the research subjects on the patch showed remarkable improvement, with fewer side effects than conventional treatments. Although more studies are needed to conclusively prove it, the patch could become a much needed treatment alternative to taking a pill. The results of this study were reviewed in a number of broadcast and print media, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Hospital designated as historic place

McLean's Administration Building built in 1895.

McLean's 238-acre campus was included on the National Register of Historic Places as part of a Historic Preservation Agreement with the Town of Belmont. Founded in 1811 in Charlestown, Mass., McLean moved to its Belmont location in 1895. Its grounds were selected with the advice of renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. While the entire campus has unique historic qualities, the initial buildings constructed hold additional historic significance because they represent the first full-fledged, cottage-plan psychiatric hospital in the United States, providing a home-like, rather than an institutional, atmosphere for patients.

Gralnick Award

Philip Holzman, PhD, co-director of McLean Hospital's Psychology Research Laboratory, was awarded the Alexander Gralnick Research Investigator Award by the American Psychological Association (APA). The award recognizes exceptional research and mentoring and will be bestowed biannually with Holzman being the first recipient. Holzman, who began his career at McLean in 1977, has donated the $20,000 cash prize he received to the Psychology Research Lab in order to support ongoing work. His research focuses on the study of psychotic illnesses, particularly schizophrenia.