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UMMC faculty, staff garner recognitions

Published on Monday, February 5, 2024

By: Patrice Guilfoyle, pguilfoyle@umc.edu

Medical Center faculty and staff often are recognized regionally, nationally and internationally for their academic or medical achievements. These accolades place UMMC among health science centers worldwide.

Psychiatry faculty lead national organizations studying addiction

For the first time, three faculty members in the Division of Neurobiology and Behavior Research in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center are playing key roles on national scientific committees on addiction at the same time.

The College on Problems of Drug Dependence and its affiliate, the International Study Group Investigating Drugs as Reinforcers are leading national scientific organizations dedicated to the study of substance use disorders. CPDD is the longest-standing scientific society in the U.S. focused on the study of and treatment for substance use disorders.

Portrait of Dr. Kevin Freeman

Drs. Kevin Freeman and James Rowlett, both professors in the department, are serving four-year terms on the Board of Directors for CPDD, where they oversee the organization’s finances and other resources while ensuring its steadfast commitment to excellence in research, training and advocacy for people suffering from addictions.

Portrait of Dr. James Rowlett

“Currently, CPDD serves a vital role as a scientific ‘home base’ for researchers, clinicians and policy makers who are working together to develop interventions to end the opioid crisis and stop the dramatic increases in overdose deaths due to the illicit distribution of synthetic opioids like fentanyl,” said Freeman.

Freeman is also chair of CPDD’s Program Committee. He is responsible for reviewing all abstract submissions for the annual meeting and organizing oral sessions that focus on the timeliest topics in the field, ranging from epidemiology and clinical trials to molecular pharmacology and chemistry of drug design.

“My chief goal as chair of this committee is to optimize the learning and networking experiences for the members by delivering oral sessions that integrate content in a way that highlights the breadth of translational work within a focus area,” Freeman said. He hopes his approach will bring clinicians, policy makers and scientists together in one room for an overhead view of how the field is attacking points along the translational line of their focus area and, ultimately, seed collaborations. 

Portrait of Dr. Sally Huskinson

Dr. Sally Huskinson, associate professor, is serving a two-year term as president of ISGIDAR, a scientific society focused on the mechanisms underlying drug-taking behavior. In this role, she builds the meeting agenda, presides over the annual meeting and engages in fundraising activities for the organization.

“To have multiple faculty from one division concurrently serving leadership roles at national scientific organizations is an honor, especially given frequent changes in those positions,” said Jenna Mitchell, the department’s director of research operations.

Though the department has a long tradition of excellence in research in the study of addictions, and its contributions have been recognized at the national level for many years, leadership positions within CPDD and ISGIDAR are usually held by faculty at larger institutions like Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University, well-known for their cutting-edge psychiatric research, said Freeman.

“This is a significant achievement for the department and UMMC because it elevates our national reputation and inserts Mississippi’s ‘voice’ into the decision-making processes that move the needle forward in the prevention and treatment of addictions,” he said.  

Mitchell said the appointments are well-timed given UMMC’s commitment to addiction research and treatment, exemplified through the establishment of the Center for Innovation and Discovery in Addictions, co-directed by Rowlett and Dr. Andrew Voluse, associate professor of psychiatry.

“These leadership roles directly shape the science of addiction, well beyond the university, and our faculty here at UMMC are directly contributing to that development,” said Mitchell.

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UMMC Police officer graduates from FBI National Academcy

Portrait of Nick Kehoe

Capt. Nick Kehoe of the UMMC Police and Public Safety Department has graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.

The 11-week program covers an array of law enforcement topics ranging from intelligence theory to forensic science to improve the level of service in police departments and law enforcement agencies at home and abroad. Participants nominated for the academy must also complete a fitness challenge as part of the program. Those who complete the academy can earn graduate and undergraduate credits from the University of Virginia, which accredits all the courses.

Kehoe joined UMMC PD in 2022 and began his public safety career in 2020 with the Michigan State University Police Department, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He is also a graduate of the Mississippi Law Enforcement Command College.