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Newsletter | Spring 2024 Article 2 | South Central MIRECC

SC MIRECC Welcomes Four to New Leadership Roles

We are pleased to announce that four faculty members have been selected for leadership roles at the Center.

Dr. Chadi Abdallah
Dr. Chadi Abdallah

Advanced Physician Fellowship Director: Chadi Abdallah, MD

Dr. Chadi Abdallah was named as the new director of the Houston Advanced Physician Fellowship. Dr. Abdallah is a psychiatrist and associate professor (tenured) in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine where he is also the Beth K and Stuart Yudofsky Chair in the Neuropsychiatry of Military Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Dr. Abdallah has expertise in antidepressants clinical trials, translational clinical neuroscience, multimodal neuroimaging, and the development of rapid acting antidepressant for the treatment of depression, PTSD and other stress-related psychiatric disorders. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying trauma, depression, and chronic stress, with emphasis on the role of synaptic connectivity and neuroenergetics.

The SC MIRECC Advanced Physician Fellowship is a two-year fellowship program that trains future VA leaders for academic and research careers by providing a foundation in mental health research, education, and clinical care. The fellowship offers four specialty tracks: (1) interventional psychiatry, (2) health services, (3) clinical psychopharmacology, and (4) brain imaging. More information can be found on our Houston fellowship webpage.

Dr. Amy Amspoker
Dr. Amy Amspoker

MIDAS Director: Amber “Amy” Amspoker, PhD

Dr. Amy Amspoker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and Quantitative Methodologist and Methods Education liaison in the Methodology and Analytics Core at the Houston Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness, and Safety (IQuESt) at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

Dr. Amspoker is a team scientist with a PhD in social psychology and advanced training in quantitative methodology. Much of her work integrates basic science, quality improvement, and user experience methodology to aid both formative and summative evaluation. She has expertise in research and implementation study design and evaluation as well as survey development and psychometrics. Dr. Amspoker has a passion for systematically investigating data to better understand Veterans and how they interact with products with the ultimate goal of improving products and their implementation across different subgroups.

In the role of MIDAS Director, Dr. Amspoker will actively collaborate with SC MIRECC leadership, investigators, MIDAS consultants, and VA partners to identify methodological needs and then prioritize and align support to meet these needs. With an eye on identifying gaps and demonstrating impact, Dr. Amspoker will emphasize the value of the MIDAS team in supporting the SC MIRECC across all phases of a project, from initial conceptualization and design to manuscript writing and dissemination. Learn more about MIDAS at our research webpage.

Dr. Jennifer Bryan
Dr. Jennifer L. Bryan

Assistant Director for Education: Jennifer "Jenn" L. Bryan, PhD

Dr. Jennifer "Jenn" L. Bryan is a social psychologist and core investigator with the South Central MIRECC at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, Texas. She is also an Associate Professor with tenure in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Bryan’s areas of expertise include clinician needs assessment, development and evaluation of mental health training, development of Veteran facing psychoeducation and self-help. She has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles and has several Veteran-facing educational materials on the SCMIRECC website including the Veterans Wellness Toolkit and A Veteran's Guide to Discussing Secure Storage to Reduce Suicide Risk. Her educational products have been nationally recognized and included as resources in the VA COVID coach app.

As the Assistant Director for Education, Dr. Bryan will lead the SCMIRECC clinical education grant program. This program provides funding for VISN 16 and 17 clinicians to create educational tools for needs they see in their practice. Additionally, Dr. Bryan leads the CBOC Mental Health Grand Rounds, a monthly accredited webinar series for rural and CBOC mental health clinicians.

Dr. Brandon Griffin
Dr. Brandon Griffin

Assistant Director for Research: Brandon J. Griffin, PhD

Dr. Brandon J. Griffin is a clinical psychologist in the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Outpatient Clinic and affiliate investigator with the South Central MIRECC at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock, Arkansas. He also is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Dr. Griffin studies the effectiveness and implementation of programs that promote mental health and prevent suicide in military Veterans, healthcare workers, and first responders. He has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, 20 scholarly chapters, and one professional handbook. He is nationally recognized for several highly cited articles focused on the conceptualization, assessment, and treatment of moral injury in individuals with personal histories of exposure to highly stressful and traumatic events. Dr. Griffin’s program of research includes operational and grant funding from the National Center for PTSD, Veterans Administration, and Department of Defense.

As Assistant Director for Research, Dr. Griffin will oversee the SCMIRECC pilot study program. The goal of the program is to fund research that can be used to develop clinical policies or programs that improve access, quality, and outcomes of mental health and substance abuse treatment for rural and underserved Veterans. Applications are accepted four times per year (January 2, April 1, July 1, and October 1), and the maximum award for pilot study applications is $55,000 for one year. For more information and to submit an application to the pilot study program, see the SC MIRECC research webpage.

When asked to comment on his new position, Dr. Griffin stated, “I am honored to serve alongside Drs. Pyne and Amspoker to support and disseminate the innovative research being done by SCMIRECC affiliate investigators.”

Last updated: April 17, 2024