Updates From Former NIDA Humphrey Fellows

Several former NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellows reported on their activities:

  • Daniela Ocaña-Gordillo (2016-2017, Ecuador) and Virginia Commonwealth University Humphrey Fellowship Assistant Coordinator Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., have investigated risk and protective factors for heroin use by Ecuadorian youth. Studying a nationally representative survey of more than 50,000 adolescents, they found increased risk of heroin use was associated with greater perceived access to heroin, repeating more school grades, and lifetime use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. Higher levels of parental involvement were associated with reduced risk of heroin use. Because risk and protective factors did not change with age and gender, the authors suggest that universal prevention would be most effective in reducing heroin use by adolescents in Ecuador. (Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Nov 1;204:107575).
  • Rhea Ramnarine (2018-2019, Trinidad and Tobago) and colleagues at Virginia Commonwealth University published a modified method for detecting cannabinoids in breast milk that the authors say is robust, reliable, and requires less time than other methods (J Anal Toxicol. 2019 Oct 17;43(9):746-752). The method will help researchers verify how long it takes for cannabinoids to be eliminated from breast milk so that physicians can advise breastfeeding mothers about how to protect their infants from exposure to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabidiol (CBD). Ms. Ramnarine presented the research at the 2019 Society of Toxicologists conference. She is currently working at the Trinidad and Tobago Forensic Science Centre. 
  • Fernanda de Conto (2013-2014, Brazil) is the Manager of Health Specific Services and Projects with United Health Group Brazil. She leads a team of clinical case managers for different patient populations, including those with complex and chronic conditions, which is an innovative approach in Brazil. In an effort to ensure the role of nursing professionals in coordination of care models, she also helps coordinate nursing protocols used in implementing and validating health services.
  • Dr. Kaustubh Sharma (2018-2019, India) trained 70 teachers in substance abuse prevention as part of the Punjabi statewide adoption of the “Buddy Program,” an interactive project intended to prevent substance abuse, promote resilience, and improve academic habits, social skills, anger management, and communication in students grade 6 and up. Dr. Sharma led sessions based on the principles of prevention education and U.S. evidence-based prevention programs for school children. Dr. Sharma discussed current research on drug risk and protective factors, and teachers' roles in shaping the likelihood of drug abuse later in life. Dr. Sharma is the deputy inspector general of police for the Punjabi Special Task Force on Drugs.