College of Health and Human Performance

Robert Leeman awarded NIAAA training grant

HEB's Robert Leeman and other UF researchers receive NIAAA training grant to improve health outcomes in people affected by alcohol and HIV

Robert Leeman awarded NIAAA training grant

Pictured left to right: Robert Cook, MD; Veronica Richards; Robert Lucero, PhD; Robert Leeman, PhD; Renessa Williams; Ben Berey; and Joseph Gullet

By Jill Pease with contributions from Kyle Chambers

The University of Florida has received a T32 award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to train and mentor the next generation of scientists to address problems related to alcohol and HIV in a region with a large and diverse population that has been impacted severely by the HIV epidemic. The state of Florida currently ranks second in new HIV infections per year and in total HIV/AIDS cases.

NIAA T32 awards enable institutions to provide grants to highly-qualified trainees in the fields of biomedical and behavioral research. Each year, the NIAA awards around 200 of these grants to pre- and postdoctoral trainees at about 30 institutional training programs nationwide. This is the second T32 awarded to HHP researchers. The first was awarded last year to Dr. David Vaillancourt and his colleagues who train researchers in the fields of neurorestoration and muscle disorders.

The training program will be closely integrated with the Southern HIV Alcohol Research Consortium, or SHARC, which is supported by more than $10 million in ongoing National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funding. The SHARC T32 training program is co-led by Dr. Robert Cook, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine; Dr. Robert Leeman, an associate professor of health education and behavior at the UF College of Health and Human Performance; and Dr. Robert Lucero, an associate professor of nursing at the UF College of Nursing.

Over the course of the five-year award, the training program will support four predoctoral and two postdoctoral trainees each year, including stipend, tuition and fees, trainee travel and training related expenses. Trainees will receive interdisciplinary exposure and experience across various areas of research, including epidemiology, biostatistics, clinical and health psychology, nursing science, health education and behavior, and medicine. In addition, trainees will gain essential career development skills through participation in workshops and mentoring by faculty members with diverse expertise. Additional goals include ensuring that trainees develop skills in the communication and dissemination of science, receive experience collaborating with multidisciplinary teams, and gain expertise in the ethical issues related to research.

The training program will ensure appropriate depth in knowledge regarding alcohol, HIV and three additional focus areas that represent areas of strength in UF research: health behavior intervention science; epidemiology and data science; and cognitive science related to aging. Four T32 scholars have been selected for the 2018-2019 academic year: Ms. Renessa Williams (nursing), Ms. Veronica Richards (epidemiology), Mr. Benjamin Berey (health education and behavior), and Dr. Joseph Gullett (neuroscience and neuropsychology).

“The training program funded by this new T32 award will enable HHP and our sister colleges to train a new generation of outstanding young scientists,” said Michael Reid, dean. “We are intensely proud of this accomplishment by Dr. Leeman and his colleagues.”

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