Department of Psychiatry

Research

CainThe Department's research now is organized largely under the umbrella of the Rochester Institute for Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (RIPBS), which provides the organizational structure for our growing portfolio of studies, and the setting for fostering the development of junior faculty and post-doctoral fellows.

Since becoming Acting Chair of Psychiatry in late-1993 and then Chair in October 1996, Dr. Eric Caine has worked along with other senior colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry to create an environment that pays special emphasis to the demands faced by new researchers when they are starting out to become independent investigators. The Department is becoming a research-intensive institution, complementing its long-standing emphasis on patient care and education.

In creating a vision for the future of the Department, we have developed the Rochester Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Sciences (RIPBS). RIPBS has three functions, to focus the research efforts of the Department, to provide an efficient infrastructure to support the "indirect needs" of research, and to provide a mechanism for supporting the efforts of junior faculty and fellows to advance their research careers. RIPBS includes two fully realized centers, the Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide; a developing center, the Wynne Center for Family Research, and one laboratory-unto-center, the Laboratory for the Prevention of Mental Disorders. This latter operation is new as of June 2004, having just recruited its director. There also are five research laboratories, smaller than centers but growing, and two related sites of developed excellence, one involving preventive and symptomatic therapeutics for dementia (Program in Neurobehavioral Therapeutics, led by Pierre Tariot, M.D.), and the other creating health service innovations for seriously mentally ill persons (Long Term Care Program-"Strong Ties," led by J. Steven Lamberti, M.D.). Together these centers and laboratories are evolving in an interdependent fashion; indeed, RIPBS intentionally is structured to foster a highly collaborative array of research interactions.

The ultimate goals of RIPBS are:

  1. To unite public health, clinical, and molecular biological research perspectives into a more complete understanding of psychiatric illnesses and behavioral disorders, including related risk and protective factors;
  2. To develop from this knowledge innovative, rigorously tested therapeutic and preventive interventions that lessen the attendant morbidity and mortality of these conditions, and in turn, enhance the functional abilities of the patients and families that clinicians treat.

RIPBS already has established a research infrastructure, including a research administrator, secretarial support to assist with grant applications, biostatistical consultation for design and for assisting with the pilot projects of junior faculty and fellows, and perhaps most important, a system for providing active research support for beginning investigators. We have hired and trained clinical research coordinators ("CRCs") that are skilled at carrying out clinical studies and trials. They are master's prepared, typically in psychology, counseling, or psychiatric social work, and have gone through rigorous training using a variety of research tools (e.g., SCID training). Junior faculty and fellows "buy up" their time to assist with studies (e.g., 0.30-0.50 FTE). Indeed, given the experience of many of our CRCs, we find that initially they often know more than the junior investigators about establishing an on-going study, and to our pleasant surprise, have served as informal teachers in the "nuts and bolts" of getting a study from start to finish.

RIPBS, in a process led by the Associate Chair for Academic Affairs, also provides pilot project funding for junior faculty and fellows on a twice-yearly basis. These "Leonard F. Salzman Research Awards," up to $20,000 each, are scrutinized through a peer-review process involving NIH IRG-seasoned reviewers, three senior department faculty members and two from other departments. The review committee aims to give constructive feedback about the proposals (prepared using NIH R03 guidelines). It is the goal of the Salzman process to finally fund applications, once they reach the expected level of excellence. Feedback is given to both the applicant and the involved mentor. At the time of this writing, six of the nine completed Salzman projects have led to NIH funding.