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7.07.2015

Dr. Viviana E. Horigian Receives 2015 NIDA Award of Excellence

Viviana E. Horigian, M.D., associate professor of public health sciences, was honored with a 2015 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) International Program Award of Excellence. The prestigious awards were announced on June 13 at the 20th annual NIDA International Forum in Phoenix, which focused on “Building International Collaborative Research on Drug Abuse.”

The NIDA International Program works with professionals from around the world to develop evidence-based solutions to the public health problems of drug abuse, addiction, and drug-related HIV/AIDS. Horigian was recognized for her extensive work in Mexico, where her team established a network for researchers and clinical practitioners to improve substance abuse clinical trials. She was one of four Award of Excellence recipients and was recognized in the category for Excellence in International Leadership.

“Receiving the 2015 NIDA International Program Award of Excellence in International Leadership is extremely rewarding,” said Horigian. “It recognizes the work and dedication of a team of researchers from the National Institute of Psychiatry in Mexico and the University of Miami, colleagues from the Department of State, and lead substance abuse treatment providers in Mexico, that came together to develop the research infrastructure that could generate evidence on culturally appropriate and effective treatments for substance abuse.”

The network, titled La Red de Ensayos Clínicos, grew out of Horigian’s initial U.S. Department of State-supported project to establish a Clinical Trials Network at the National Institute of Psychiatry in Mexico City. Horigian provided training, coaching, and mentoring for Mexican investigators that would guide the network’s design, implementation and analysis of randomized clinical trials.

The only network of its kind in Latin America, La Red de Ensayos Clínicos provides training to community treatment providers in evidence-based practices and monitors systems to improve quality in both research and practice. Since its inception, the network has significantly expanded and has successfully completed two randomized clinical trials and conducted research in 45 clinical settings. When the team’s first clinical trial was completed in 2013, Horigian received recognition from the Mexican National Institute of Psychiatry.

Mexico’s need for the network was apparent. The country had approximately 335 drug treatment programs, but treatment at these sites lacked scientific evidence and a clear plan on what the scope of treatment should be, said José Szapocznik, Ph.D., professor and Chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences and Director of the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

“Dr. Horigian worked together with Mexico’s National Institute of Psychiatry and designed a strategy that would transform drug treatment practices while tackling the challenges these treatment programs faced in caring for their patients,” said Szapocznik. “This was a process of technological collaboration in which Dr. Horigian and her team established a mutually respectful collaborative relationship with researchers at the National Institute. These researchers in turn established a mutually respectful collaborative relationship with the local providers.”

While seemingly challenging, Horigian said that such collaborations are critical to developing capacity and sustainable solutions in low- and middle-income countries. Horigian also uses the model to help colleagues at the Universidad Católica Santiago de Guayaquil in Ecuador and Fundación San Carlos de Maipo, Chile, implement the Familias Unidas program in those countries.

“Our experience in Mexico was extremely gratifying for many reasons,” she said. “We had the opportunity to visit this spectacular country with such a rich culture and make great friends and lasting partnerships, but we also were able to successfully implement a model for technology transfer which we can now replicate in other Latin America countries.”

As the Executive Director of the Florida Node Alliance of the NIDA National Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network (CTN) for the past 13 years, Horigian has implemented numerous multi-site randomized clinical trials. Her research with the organization has focused on Brief Strategic Family Therapy for adolescent drug abuse. She co-chairs the CTN Youth Interest Group and serves on the CTN Pharmacology Interest Group and Minority Special Interest Group.

Horigian is also an advisor for the National Hispanic Latino Addiction Technology Transfer Center, which develops the workforce to treat Hispanics with substance abuse and mental health problems.

“Dr. Horigian worked tirelessly to help colleagues in Mexico implement the NIDA CTN model,” said Steven W. Gust, Ph.D., Director of the NIDA International Program. “Her work in the United States as well as in Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico helps introduce evidence-based treatments tailored to reach adolescent substance users, whose still-developing brains are particularly vulnerable to the long-term consequences of substance abuse.”

Gust described the award winners as dedicated and experienced leaders in the international effort to advance drug abuse research and training. Mentoring, international leadership, and collaborative research are part of the selection criteria.

“This year’s winners have helped to prepare international scientists to work together across international borders and to lead the way for key scientific breakthroughs,” he said.

NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health. Additional information is available at http://www.drugabuse.gov/international/awards-excellence.

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