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VISN 4 MIRECC Newsflash

Spring 2020


A lot has happened in the world and locally since our last Newsflash. Both the COVID-19 crisis and the crisis of racial inequity have hit the world and this nation hard. As mental health advocates, both issues are also particularly relevant to our mission of improving care. It is also obvious to me that the mental health care disparities that abound in this country are at the heart of our theme of precision mental health care. How can you have precision with inequity?

I hope that you as individuals have found ways of coping with both crises, but I also hope that these issues have sparked a new energy in researching and moving our field forward. We can and should use our current challenges as an opportunity to learn and apply this knowledge as we strive to create a better health care system.

David Oslin, M.D.

Director, VISN 4 MIRECC


While many research projects have been on hold as a result of the pandemic, members of our Center’s staff have been pursuing other vital ways to contribute time and expertise to our local VA medical centers and beyond. For example, investigators Elaine Boland, Ph.D. and Katherine Miller, Ph.D. have been conducting teletherapy groups at Philadelphia’s Snyder House and making themselves available on an as-needed basis to the Palliative Care team to provide bereavement and other support to Veterans’ families. Dr. Boland has also provided her time to the VA Employee Assistance Program (EAP) call line. Research coordinators Jillian Convery, M.A. and Marie Carroll, M.S. have been making phone calls to remind Philadelphia Veterans that their mental health clinic appointments will be conducted via telehealth. Chantele Mitchell-Miland, Ph.D. recently spearheaded the development of the MIRECC Diversity and Inclusion Workgroup in Pittsburgh.

Virtual communication has become crucial for all of us in this period of distancing. However, many Veterans lack access to technology or knowledge in using it. These disparities must not interfere with the care we provide at VA. Therefore, since the onset of the pandemic, our MIRECC has partnered with Behavioral Health, Social Work, Voluntary Service, and community-based volunteers to distribute more than 100 devices to Veterans needing them for video telehealth.

As always, investigators at both sites have been preparing peer-reviewed publications to advance VA research. Meanwhile, many of our staff have been volunteering outside VA time to assist their local communities in various ways.

Our MIRECC is committed to supporting our Veterans and our local medical centers in every way we can.


The PRecision medicine In MEntal health (PRIME) Care study has officially restarted recruitment using newly approved virtual processes, developed as a result of the recent administrative hold on VA research due to COVID-19. This 22-site clinical trial, being led at the MIRECC in Philadelphia, examines the use of pharmacogenetic testing for depression treatment. Study site teams across the nation have been trained on the new procedures, and subject recruitment is now ongoing. 

We are hopeful that lessons learned from this shift in procedures will be helpful to our Center and to others in our research and clinical communities as we all strive to continue engaging Veterans in our mission to provide and improve mental health care.


Matthew Chinman, Ph.D. received the 2020 VAPHS Research Week Investigator Excellence in Research Award.

Julia Longenecker, Ph.D. received the 2020 VAPHS Research Week Young Investigator Poster Presentation Award in Clinical Services Research.

Liubomir Andrei Pisarov, CCRC received the 2020 VAPHS Research Week Staff Award for Direct Contact with Veterans.

Sara Chapman, M.S., OTR/L received the 2020 VAPHS Research Week Staff Award for Indirect Contact with Veterans.

Philip Gehrman, Ph.D. received the 2020 College of Liberal and Professional Studies Award for Distinguished Teaching in Undergraduate and Post-Baccalaureate Programs at the University of Pennsylvania.

David Oslin, M.D. and Kyle Kampman, M.D. were included in Philadelphia Magazine’s 2020 “Top Doctors” List.

Elaine Boland, Ph.D. was accepted to the standing faculty as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry in the CE track at the University of Pennsylvania.


Subhajit Chakravorty, M.D. was awarded VA CSR&D Merit funding for his project, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT-I) Augmentation of Topiramate in Promoting Abstinence in Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). 

Rachel Bachrach, Ph.D. received a VA HSR&D Career Development Award for her project, Optimizing Cardiac Rehabilitation by Integrating Sleep Therapeutics.

Caitlan Tighe, Ph.D. received a VA RR&D Career Development Award for her project, Implementation Intervention to Improve Care for Unhealthy Alcohol Use.

Konasale Prasad, M.D. was awarded VA CSR&D Merit funding for his project, Neural Circuitry Resilience in Psychotic Disorders: A Multimodal Ultra-High Field Neuroimaging Study. 

Julia Longenecker, Ph.D. received a MIRECC Pilot Project Award for her project, Predictors of Recovery in Veterans with Severe Mental Illness.


Lerner D, Adler DA, Rogers WH, Ingram E, Oslin DW. Effect of Adding a Work-Focused Intervention to Integrated Care for Depression in the Veterans Health Administration. JAMA Network Open. PMID: 32108889 [external]

Gebara MA, DiNapoli E, Hamm ME, Rodriguez KL, Kasckow JW, Lederer LG, Bramoweth AD, Karp JF. Illness Narratives and Preferences for Treatment Among Older Veterans Living with Treatment-Resistant Depression and Insomnia. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry. PMID: 32343281 [external]

Bonfils KA, Painter JM, Luther JF, Congedo BA, Haas GL. Preliminary Examination of a Measure of Metacognitive Perspective-Taking: The Interpersonal Block Assembly Task. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. PMID: 32378928 [external]

Hartwell EE, Feinn R, Morris PE, Gelernter J, Krystal J, Arias AJ, Hoffman M, Petrakis I, Gueorguieva R, Schacht JP, Oslin D, Anton RF, Kranzler HR. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Moderating Effect of r21799971 in OPRM1, the mu-Opioid Receptor Gene, on Response to Naltrexone Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder. Addiction. PMID: 31961981 [external]

Thase ME, McCrone P, Barrett MS, Eells TD, Wisniewski SR, Balasubramani GK, Brown GK, Wright JH. Improving Cost-effectiveness and Access to Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Depression: Providing Remote-Ready, Computer-Assisted Psychotherapy in Times of Crisis and Beyond. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. PMID: 32396917 [external]

Zhou H, Rentsch CT, Cheng Z, Kember RL, Nunez YZ, Sherva RM, Tate JP, Dao C, Xu K, Polimanti R, Farrer LA, Justice AC, Kranzler HR, Gelernter J; Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program. Association of OPRM1 Functional Coding Variant With Opioid Use Disorder: A Genome-Wide Association Study. JAMA Psychiatry. PMID: 32492095 [external]



Philip Gehrman, Ph.D. appeared in the PBS NOVA [external] documentary, “The Mysteries of Sleep,” in which he discussed PTSD and nightmares. He spoke to USA Today [externa], Ladders [external], Philadelphia Magazine [external], and KYW 1060 about how the coronavirus pandemic may contribute to insomnia, oversleeping, or unusually vivid dreams, as well as tips for getting a better night’s sleep. He appeared on WCAU NBC10 Philadelphia [external] to discuss pandemic-related sleep problems and, for some, potentially improved sleep due to beneficially altered schedules. He spoke to [external] about the use of melatonin for sleep.

Matthew Chinman, Ph.D.’s research on the role of peer specialists in mental health care for formerly homeless Veterans was featured on VAntage Point. The study was also highlighted on VA’s official weekly online newscast, VA News. Dr. Chinman was interviewed [external] by Sally Rogers, Sc.D., director of Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, about his research on peer support.

Recently published findings from David Oslin, M.D.’s VA-funded study (referenced above) of a work-focused telemedicine intervention for depressed Veterans in integrated care were featured on [external] and [external]. Dr. Oslin’s study was also highlighted in the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs’ weekly VA-wide “Stories of Note” email.

Kyle Kampman, M.D. spoke to Addiction Professional [external] about the importance of access to pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder and recent updates to the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s National Practice Guideline.

Henry Kranzler, M.D. spoke to the Philadelphia Inquirer [external] about the potential health impacts of the closure of Pennsylvania liquor stores due to the pandemic. He commented to NBC News [external] about possible challenges presented by virtual 12-step meetings. (March) He spoke to Prevention [external] about the dangers of increased drinking during quarantine.

Judith Callan, Ph.D., RN spoke to the Pitt News [external] about her undergraduate research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh. She commended mentee Ashley Van Slyke, who cofounded a student organization dedicated to decreasing stigma and increasing education around mental health. Ms. Van Slyke is currently working with Dr. Callan on researching an app for cognitive behavioral therapy homework for Veterans.

Elaine Boland, Ph.D. spoke to Psychiatry Advisor [external] about the role of sleep and reward processing in depression. She was interviewed for VA Research Currents about her paper on precision medicine for insomnia, which was also featured on VA News.

Michael Thase, M.D. spoke to [external] about depression that occurs situationally, or in the wake of stressful events like a pandemic.

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David W. Oslin, M.D.
Director, VISN 4 MIRECC
Cpl. Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center