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Newsletter | Summer 2022 | South Central MIRECC

Meet the SC MIRECC Researcher: Joseph (“Jay”) Boffa, PhD

Dr. Joseph
Dr. Joseph ("Jay") Boffa

Q. Please tell us a bit about your educational and career background.

My path has been a bit winding. I completed a BA in psychology from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) at the peak of the Great Recession – turned out there wasn’t much of a market for me. I worked for UCLA’s Early Care and Education program for two years before attending San Diego State University’s MA program for psychology, where I established some chops in research. Then I drove (nearly) the entirety of Interstate I-10 to Florida State University, where I completed my PhD in clinical psychology. I followed a few of my Florida State predecessors to New Orleans for internship at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS), after which I joined the staff as a suicide prevention coordinator and clinical investigator. My current research focuses on psychological processes associated with suicidal self-directed violence and the role of technology in suicide prevention.

Q. What do you like about doing research with Veterans?

After years of conducting research in a university laboratory, I really enjoy the opportunity to apply those skills to research that you can personally observe unfolding in a health care setting. Coming of age while Veterans were returning from Afghanistan and Iraq (again) drew me to this field, and it’s rewarding to finally be in a position where I not only work alongside Veterans to improve their quality of life but am able to witness the implications of this research on a daily basis.

Q. Do you have any ongoing or upcoming studies or projects that you want to highlight?

I recently closed out a few – one qualitative study to understand Veterans’ perceptions of acceptability and feasibility of a mobile suicide prevention intervention I’ve been working to develop, and another examining the role of VA Video Connect appointments in continuity of mental health care for Veterans flagged as high risk for suicide. Looking ahead, I’m working with colleagues at VA’s Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention to develop a study that we hope will help us to understand the factors which enhance or inhibit self-disclosure of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among Black and African American Veterans.

Q. Are there any people who have played important roles in your professional development that you would like to mention?

I’ve been privileged by the support of my parents and my wife; Nader Amir and Brad Schmidt, who invested their time and resources in my training; and the tireless efforts of Laurel Franklin, Ken Jones, and Amanda Raines that got me to SLVHCS. Also, a special shout to my SC MIRECC colleagues, including Ellen Fischer, Jeff Cully, Darrell Zeno, and Mark Kunik, to name a few.

Q. How will you use your SC MIRECC affiliation to grow your research career?

The SC MIRECC has already been a boon to my career. I was a 2020 Grant Writing Scholar which was invaluable for developing my ability to compete for grants and introduced me to colleagues from Little Rock and Houston. The SC MIRECC funded a Pilot Award that provided pilot data for my Career Development Award (CDA-2) application that is being considered for funding at VA Clinical Science Research and Development (CSR&D). From here, I look forward to developing collaborative relationships with other SC MIRECC colleagues to conduct meaningful research to improve care for Veterans.

Q. What would your dream research study be if funding weren’t an issue?

I know there are limits to the effectiveness of psychological interventions – for suicide in particular – when an individual’s basic needs aren’t being met. There’s a really cool study, Baby’s First Years, that is looking at unconditional monthly cash transfers to low-income mothers and the effect that has on childhood development. Money obviously isn’t going to solve all problems, but I would be very intrigued to see the influence of major research dollars on the social determinants of health (and therefore quality of life) in some of our most disadvantaged Veterans. VA has some of the most incredible infrastructure in this country for providing assistance to Veterans, and understandably still can’t cover everything. There are many with whom I come in contact that can’t cover a car payment, afford home repairs after a hurricane, etc. These stressors are all (directly or indirectly) tied to our national epidemic of suicide, so I’d love to see what impact that kind of support has on such outcomes.

Q. How can people get in touch with you if they have questions? or find me on Teams!


Last updated: July 28, 2022