Attention A T users. To access the menus on this page please perform the following steps. 1. Please switch auto forms mode to off. 2. Hit enter to expand a main menu option (Health, Benefits, etc). 3. To enter and activate the submenu links, hit the down arrow. You will now be able to tab or arrow up or down through the submenu options to access/activate the submenu links.


Quick Links
Veterans Crisis Line Badge
My healthevet badge

VISN 4 MIRECC Newsflash

Fall 2018


In Specialty Mental Health Care, the Messaging Matters

It's a problem our clinicians know too well: mental health care patients miss appointments at a rate almost twice that of other medical specialties, and up to half of no-shows will drop out of care. Is there more we can do to boost attendance? In a series [external] of papers published in Psychiatric Services (March and October 2018), Shahrzad Mavandadi, Ph.D. et al. analyzed the attendance of depressed Veterans who had been randomly mailed one of three appointment reminder letters in advance: one listed only routine details; one stated the pros of attending; and one stated the cons of not attending.

The study found that in this case, positive messaging may be the best bet. Patients assigned to receive letters reminding them that their attendance would help them learn ways of improving their mood were significantly more likely to keep their appointments than those who were mailed neutral reminders. If the mere wording of our message shapes the way depressed patients view their appointments, there may be feasible, cost-effective strategies to significantly improve patient engagement in mental health care. In the future, Dr. Mavandadi hopes to expand on this research by investigating the effects of message framing in multiple clinical contexts, among different patient groups, and using different modes of communication (like text, phone or email).

 quotemark These findings have broader implications for how providers and health systems can more effectively communicate with our patients as we motivate them to engage in care and behaviors that will maximize their wellbeing."


Vishwashit Nimgaonkar 

Vishwajit ("Vish") Nimgaonkar, M.D., Ph.D. joined our Pittsburgh site as Co-Associate Director for Research. A professor of psychiatry and human genetics and the director of the Program for Genetics and Psychoses at the University of Pittsburgh Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, he conducts research spanning projects in the U.S., India and Egypt that explores the causation and treatment of severe psychiatric illnesses.


Rachel Kember, Ph.D., a psychiatric geneticist at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, joins the VISN 4 MIRECC Philadelphia site as an investigator. Her work has focused on Phenome Wide Association Studies (PheWas). She will be working on the Million Veteran Program.


Christine ("Chrissie") Ramsey, Ph.D., an associate research scientist at the Yale Center for Informatics, has joined our Philadelphia site as an investigator. She will be the statistician for the PRIME Care study and will be involved with other research projects as well. She specializes in mental health epidemiology and biostatistics and has a particular interest in the role of nutrition and physical activity in the treatment of mood disorders.


Rachel Bachrach, Ph.D. was awarded MIRECC pilot funding for her project: Risky Alcohol Use Screening and Brief Intervention among Complex Veterans Seeking Primary Care Services.

Matthew Chinman, Ph.D. received VA HSR&D merit funding for his project: Evaluating the Use of Peer Specialists to Deliver Cognitive Behavioral Social Skills Training (CBSST).

Hayley Fivecoat, Ph.D. was awarded MIRECC pilot funding for her project: Partner Involvement in Psychotherapy for Veterans with PTSD.

Sarah Forster, Ph.D.
received notice of CSR&D Career Development Award (CDA-2) funding for her project: Electrophysiological Predictors and Indicators of Contingency Management Treatment Response.

Samantha Lookatch, Ph.D. was awarded MIRECC pilot funding for her project: Effects of Communication Training in Addicted Veterans.

Caitlan Tighe, Ph.D. was awarded MIRECC pilot funding for her project: Examining the Prevalence, Predictors, and Impact of Disordered Sleep in Veterans Eligible for Cardiac Rehabilitation.


Matthew Chinman, Ph.D. was quoted on Kansas City NPR station KCUR's website [external] about the VA peer specialist program and its recent expansion under the VA Mission Act of 2018. 

Henry Kranzler, M.D. was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer [external] about the genetic factors of opioid abuse.

David Oslin, M.D. was quoted about the risks of prescribing benzodiazepines for older adults on [external]. He did a Q&A about substance use in older adults with The Carlat Report: Addiction Treatment [external]. He was also quoted about the VA REACH VET program in the Philly Voice [external].

Michael Thase, M.D. was quoted in SELF magazine [external] about the differences between bipolar I and bipolar II. He also did a short video interview for [external] about next-generation therapies for major depression.


Chinman, M. J., McCarthy, S., Bachrach, R., Mitchell-Miland, C., Schutt, R., & Ellison, M. (2018) Investigating the Degree of Reliable Change Among Persons Assigned to Receive Mental Health Peer Specialist Services. Psychiatric Services. Advance online publication. PMID: 30286707 [external] 

Gerlach, L.B., Maust, D.T., Leong, S.H., Mavandadi, S. & Oslin, D.W. (2018). Factors associated with long-term benzodiazepine use among older adults. JAMA Internal Medicine. Advance online publication. PMID: 30208384 [external] 

Kranzler, H. R., & Soyka, M. (2018) Diagnosis and pharmacotherapy of alcohol use disorder: a review. JAMA, 320, 815-824. PMID: 30167705 [external] 

Rollman, B., Herbeck Belnap, B., Abebe, K., Spring, M., Rotondi, A. J., Rothenberger, S., & Karp, J. (2018). Effectiveness of Online Collaborative Care for Treating Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Primary Care. JAMA Psychiatry, 75 (1), 56. PMID: 29117275 [external] 

Smelson, D., Chinman, M. J., Hannah, G. J., Byrne, T., & McCarthy, S. (2018). An evidence-based co-occurring disorder intervention in VA homeless programs: outcomes from a hybrid III trial. BMC Health Services Research, 18 (1), 332. PMID: 29728148 [external] 

Stanley, B., Brown, G. K., Brenner, L., Galfalvy, H., Currier, G., Knox, K., Chaudhury, S., Bush, A., & Green, K. (2018). Comparison of the Safety Planning Intervention With Follow-up vs. Usual Care of Suicidal Patients Treated in the Emergency Department. JAMA PsychiatryPMID: 29998307 [external] 


PADRECC/MIRECC Symposium on Neurodegenerative Diseases
Updates on the psychiatric and cognitive complications of Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Date: Friday, March 29, 2019
Location: Cpl. Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center (Philadelphia)

Sign up for updates.



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