Global Activities

Australia |  Ecuador | EnglandJapan | KoreaPuerto Rico | Russia | South Africa | SpainThailand


May 20, 2010, Joanne Nicholson, PhD, professor of Psychiatry and associate director of the Centre for Mental Health Services Research at the Department of Psychiatry, spoke at the public forum of the Mental Illness Fellowship of South Australia. She discussed issues around people with a mental illness and the role that family members play in recovery. Since gaining her PhD in human development and family studies in 1979, Professor Nicholson has spent more than 30 years working with families. She was also involved in many other activities in her May visit to Australia.

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Lead is a well-established neurotoxin that poses significant physiological and neurological health risks. These health risks have prompted the United States Public Health Service to work toward eliminating elevated blood lead levels (BLLs) in children by 2010. In some developing Latin American countries like Ecuador, poor villages often use lead glazing of ceramics as the primary income source for many families. More than 60% of Ecuador’s 13.5 million people live below the poverty line, so it is no surprise that some inhabitants of villages high in the Ecuadorian Andes subsist on the dangerous practice of lead glazing which leads to high levels of lead exposure.

In an effort to determine the prevalence of neurosensory and neurocognitive effects of lead poisoning on children in these villages, Leo H. Buchanan, Ph.D., Director of the Shriver Center Audiology Department and UMMS Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, has served as Clinical and Research Audiologist on a multi-national, interdisciplinary field research team since 1995. The team was astonished to find that the children in several of these villages had extreme lead poisoning, with some showing BLLs more than 10 times higher than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “action line” or risk level of 10 micrograms per deciliter.

Read more about the “Collaborative Research on Lead Poisoning in Children in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador” in the Shriver Center Spotlight (p. 3).

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Jun. 12, 2009, Tom Grisso, PhD gave an address at the annual conference of the Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health in London, England. Tom talked about developments in mental health services for youth in juvenile justice settings in the U.S. He continued his journey in Toledo, Spain where he addressed the annual conference of the Legal and Forensic Psychiatry Section of the European Psychiatric Association and World Psychiatric Association regarding new developments in forensic assessment methods in psychiatry and psychology.

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Schahram Akbarian, MD, PhD was invited to lecture for the 2010 Summer Program of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Tokyo, Japan. This is a prestigious lecture series organized by the RIKEN BSI Director, Dr. Susumu Tonegawa, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1987. This year's lecture list included many prominent names in the field of basic and translational neuroscience (Dr. Robert Malinow, Dr. Alcino Silva, Dr. Karl Deisseroth, Dr. Norman Geschwind, Dr. Marcus Raichle and others). The course's students reflect an international audience, and included many of the prestigious PhD or MD graduate programs in the United States. Dr. Akbarian lectured on the epigenetic approach to psychiatric disorders, toured the RIKEN BSI Institutes, and networked with several of their basic neuroscientist and psychiatrist faculty including Dr. Tadafumi Kato and Dr. Takeo Yoshikawa.

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Dr. Sangkeun Chung, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Chonbuk National University Medical School in Korea, is with us as visiting professor Aug. 16, 2010 through Jan. 31, 2012. Read more about him.

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Puerto Rico

Luis Caraballo, PsyD was a psychology fellow at UMass Medical School (2004-2006) and LEND Fellow at the Shriver Center (2005-2006) before he joined the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, San Juan, PR as assistant professor. Curious about the cultural differences in the U.S. and Puerto Rico? Learn how he brought behavioral healthcare to Puerto Rico in the Shriver Center Spotlight (p. 9).

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Future Plans

We plan to extend our activities in genetics and neuropsychiatry to other medical areas such as immunology, oncology and cardio-vascular diseases and to translational medicine, including gene therapy. We would like to build and strengthen our connections with educational institutions (such as the Faculty of Biology and Faculty of Bioinformatics and Bioengineering at Lomonosov Moscow State University; Educational Center in Institute of General Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences; and Moscow Medical University, research and clinical centers in Russia (such as the Mental Health Research Center of Academy of Medical Sciences, Institute of General Genetics, Academy of Sciences), and clinical and research groups working in the field of addiction.

Since 1990, the unusually high mortality was observed in males in Russian population that was linked to stress, alcoholism and cardio-vascular diseases. This led to unprecedented gap in life expectancy between male and female populations in Russia and some other countries of the former Soviet Union. The common chronic diseases such as cancer, alcoholism and cardio-vascular disorders are priority health problems in Russia. National Institute of Health in the U.S. lunched a cooperation on global health activity with Russian Medical Academy of Sciences and Russian Academy of Science. On Sep. 23, 2010 the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) and Eli Lilly and Company announced the launch of the U.S.–Russia Forum in Health Sciences to encourage collaboration on shared priorities in health related research. “The partnership will sponsor a clinical and translational research-training program in Russia. There will also be additional resources for Russian scientists who are accepted into the NIH Visiting Fellows Program.”

We plan to be integrated in the activity between the U.S. and Russian institutions. Dr. Rogaev is communicating with NIH Fogarty and Russian Academy of Sciences for the putative projects and mutual interests under this novel initiative.

In addition, the new genomic technologies emerged in field of human genetics require cooperation in technologies, protocols and bioinformatics. We are establishing cooperation for deep-sequencing methodology and bioinformatics network and resources available in Moscow (e.g., Institute of General Genetics) and UMMS.

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South Africa

Asenze. Translated from Zulu, it means, “let’s make it happen.” That’s precisely what Dr. Kathleen Braden, developmental-behavioral pediatrician and Director of the Shriver Center LEND program, has been doing through two innovative humanitarian projects for children and adolescents at risk for developmental and health problems living in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa’s poorest state. Read more about the Asenze and Mpilonhle projects” in the Shriver Center Spotlight (p. 6-7).

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During 2011, Thomas Grisso Ph.D. and Laura Guy Ph.D. stimulated the development of a consortium of European investigators who perform child mental health research using tools and methods developed in the Law-Psychiatry Program at University of Massachusetts Medical School. The founding members of the consortium, known as the International Forensic Screening and Assessment Network for Adolescents (InForSANA), are all involved in clinical research on mental health problems among youth in juvenile justice settings in the Netherlands, U.K., Belgium, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey. Their objective is to employ a uniform database format and uniform methods across research sites in order to improve their ability to do comparative international research on delinquent youths’ mental health needs. InForSANA members have recently applied for two European research grants to further their work.

Sep. 2010, Fernando de Torrijos, TTS, MBSRS gave a week-long intensive mindfulness professional training in L’Escala, Girona Province, Spain. Eighty-seven participants from 27 provinces in Spain and Latin America attended the highly demanded training. Most of these participants are health professionals and will teach mindfulness to their patients after the training. The training incorporates diverse formats and it’s a smashing success. A similar training for September 2011 is being planned.

Fernando deTorrijos Spain 1 Fernando deTorrijos Spain 2

Aug. 23-29, 2009, Fernando de Torrijos, TTS, MBSRS taught “The Science and Clinical Applications of Mindfulness and Other Self-Awareness Disciplines” at the Instituto Hipócrates, Clínica Montanyá, Seva, Barcelona, Spain. This private institute was created in 2004 by Dr. Angel Rubio, director for the treatment of addictions. Since then, the services have been expanded to many cities and towns in Spain where patients undergo initial evaluations and follow-up treatments.

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Ms. Tatpicha Nunta visited the department and the Office of Global Health, Jul. 1, 2010. She was here to learn about medical students’ study abroad program in Thailand on behalf of the Thai government.

Tatpicha Nunta
Ms. Nunta and Dr. Jennifer Wu

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