Fellowship in Psychotic Disorders


Introduction

The MCG Department of Psychiatry & Health Behavior has a long history of research on psychotic disorders, and we have multiple federally funded grants in this area. A variety of opportunities and methods are available for fellows, from epidemiology to clinical trials, molecular biology, and animal models. Although most fellows will come out of a psychiatry residency, psychologists and neurologists would also be welcome. Independent investigators at MCG who focus on schizophrenia and related topics are listed below.

Goals for the Fellowship

In addition to strengthening the fellow's clinical skills in the evaluation and treatment of psychotic disorders, an important goal for most fellows is to prepare for an academic career. The visibility of publications can hide an important fact about a research career: success depends not on the number or even the quality of publications, but on obtaining competitive external funding, especially funding from the  National Institutes of Health  (NIH). For instance, participating in industry-sponsored trials can be helpful in terms of funding a research enterprise, but these trials do not lead to publications or competitive funding. The ability to obtain funding depends on mastering several skills: critical thinking, especially about one's own work; study management; writing papers; and the submission and resubmission of grant applications. All of these are best learned in the context of a long-term mentoring relationship. It follows that good mentoring is the key to success early in one's career.

The fellow will be expected to participate in ongoing projects, develop one or more projects on which he or she takes the lead, and to submit manuscripts (chapters or journal articles) for publication. Presenting his or her work at international meetings is also an important part of training, and the fellow will participate in at least one such meeting per year. These meetings include the  International Congress on Schizophrenia Research  , and the annual meetings of the American Psychiatric Association , the  Society of Biological Psychiatry  , and  American College of Neuropsychopharmacology  . The fellowship program will also nominate fellows for travel awards and, as appropriate, other awards for junior investigators.

Fellows will also learn about the process of competing for research funding. Those who participate in two years of fellowship will also be expected to draft a grant application, either a NARSAD-style, two-page application, or a more extensive application.

Objectives for the first year of the fellowship:

■ Submit two papers or chapters for publication

■ Submit one abstract for an international meeting

Objectives for the second year of the fellowship:

■ Collect data on a project initiated by the fellow

■ Complete a NARSAD application

■ Submit two data papers for publication

Clinical Resources at Augusta University

The Augusta University has several populations available for research. The ward on 3 South is an active inpatient unit and there is an active outpatient clinic in the Stoney Building where the Department is based. Dr. Adriana Foster and Dr. Simon Sebastian are attendings.

Recruitment for clinical studies takes place at several of the area's public mental health centers. The Department has developed a strong infrastructure for the conduct of clinical trials in psychotic disorders. Trials that are sponsored and initiated by industry, funded by industry but initiated by the academic investigator, and federally funded trials (which are initiated by the investigator) have been conducted at MCG in recent years. Currently, we are conducting both industry-sponsored and federally funded treatment research.

Another important resource for the fellow is Project GREAT , which is a demonstration clinical and research project funded by the state of Georgia. This project examines the impact of peer counseling on the lives of people with serious mental illness. Project GREAT reflects the Department's broader commitment to the recovery model for the clinical care of people with mental illness.

Investigators

Several investigators in the Department have active research projects related to psychotic disorders:

Sahebarao P. Mahadik, PhD .

Dr. Mahadik conducts laboratory and clinical studies of oxidation/reduction and lipid abnormalities in schizophrenia, and on brain neurotrophic factors.

Anilkumar Pillai, PhD .

Dr. Pillai's laboratory studies focus on neurotrophic factors as the target for the development of new therapeutics in psychosis, and on the reeler signaling pathway in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

Peter Buckley, M.D.

Dr. Buckley's research focuses primarily on treatment trials, but he has published on a wide variety of topics related to schizophrenia, including imaging. He is also actively involved in translational studies of brain neurotrophic factors. Dr. Buckley is the Editor of Clinical Schizophrenia and Related Psychoses, and is on the Advisory Board for the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research.

Other faculty members in the Department also offer important expertise that is available to fellows:

Joseph McEvoy, M. D.

Joseph P McEvoy, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Health Behavior and I. Clark Case Distinguished Chair in Psychotic Disorders.  His areas of current research interest include strategies for providing Primary Care for patients with SMI, testing potential biomarkers for psychosis spectrum disorders in first and second degree relatives of patients with psychoses.  His team implements a wide range of clinical psychopharmacology trials funded by NIH and the Pharma industry.  He is also developing treatment algorthms for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar diosorder.

Simon Sebastian, M .D.

Dr. Sebastian has extensive experience in the clinical use of clozapine, and in the outpatient treatment of patients with psychotic disorders. He is also investigating transcranial magnetic stimulation in psychotic disorders.

Brian Miller, M.D., Ph.D., MPH

Dr. Miller’s research focuses on 1) inflammation/cytokines as a potential clinical state and relapse predictive marker in schizophrenia, 2) the role of infections in acute psychosis, and 3) clinical trials of adjunctive immunotherapy in schizophrenia.

Alex Mabe, Ph.D .

Dr. Mabe works with Project GREAT to develop research on peer support and the recovery model.

Investigators outside of the Department are involved in collaborations with Department faculty members, and are important sources of expertise and collaboration. Each of these investigators has a strong translational interest:

Alvin Terry, Ph.D .

Dr. Terry is a federally funded laboratory scientist with an interest in animal behavioral models relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders, and in the cognitive effects of antipsychotic medications.

Paul Kruzich, Ph.D.

Dr. Kruzich's laboratory focuses primarily on drug abuse, a problem of great importance for the treatment, and possibly the etiology, of schizophrenia. He also has a collaboration with Dr. Kirkpatrick that focuses on an animal model of advanced paternal age, which is a well replicated and relatively robust risk factor for schizophrenia.

Clare Bergson, Ph.D .

Dr. Bergson is coordinating a multi-investigator project related to the etiopathophysiology of schizophrenia. The focus of her laboratory is the calcyon, a brain-specific protein that interacts with the dopamine receptor.

Lin Mei, Ph.D .

The focus of Dr. Mei's laboratory is the signaling pathway for neuregulin1, one of the best-replicated genes of risk for schizophrenia.

Almira Vazdarjanova, Ph.D.

Dr. Vazdarjanova's work focuses on neural plasticity and learning, with a particular interest in the relationship of these processes to schizophrenia.

The MCG Department of Neurology has several active research programs. The program on circulating adult stem cells has particular overlap with interests of Psychiatry faculty. Strong basic scientists in this area are also on campus, and have begun collaborations with our department. 

MCG experts in genetic epidemiology, genetic statistics, and genotyping, based in the Georgia prevention Institute and the Department of Medicine, are also collaborating with faculty in the Psychiatry Department.

Genetics Researchers

Several MCG experts in genetic epidemiology, genetic statistics, and genotyping, based in the Georgia prevention Institute and the Department of Medicine, are also collaborating with faculty in the Psychiatry Department.

Other Educational Resources

Formal courses, which may be very helpful as part of career development, are available at. Two formal programs based in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology are of particular interest:

■ Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS): This course consists of Consists of 15 credit hours of didactic courses, 2 credit hours of clinical and translational science seminars, and 3 credit hours of mentored research, and can usually be completed in one year.

■ Master of Clinical and Translational Science : This course consists of the CCTS curriculum plus 1 additional required didactic course, 2 additional hours of clinical and translational science seminars, 6 hours of elective courses, and 5 additional hours of mentored research. The mentored research project that is a requirement of the MCTS program will culminate in a grant proposal that is suitable for submission to an extramural funding agency. The MCTS can be completed in 2 years.

Both programs provide training on hypothesis generation, research design, data analysis, interpretation and presentation of results, critical thinking, grant writing, human research protection, and research ethics. The emphasis is on practical issues.

It is also possible to take or audit specific courses without enrollment in one of these degree-granting programs. Many other courses, including courses on genetics, are also available on campus.

MCG is currently developing the Brain Development Institute, which is a campus-wide initiative to strengthen neuroscience research. Dr. Kirkpatrick is chairs the development of one of the four BDI programs, Psychotic Disorders.

The Office of Career Development offers a wide range of short courses and workshops. These workshops range from “PowerPoint for Beginners” to “Promotion and Tenure Preparation." The Office of Faculty Development presents a one-day program called “ Career Development 101.” This one-day program is designed to help new faculty members get promoted and otherwise thrive.

The Division of Sponsored Program Administration (DSPA) offers two services that are potentially very valuable for fellows. The first is an outside critique of a grant application, from non-MCG researchers of your choice. If the external reviewer or reviewer agrees, he or she will be paid by the DPSA for the review. DPSA also provides an opportunity to consult with Health Research Associates on grant submission and resubmission. Assistance is provided in preparation of specific aims, significance, hypothesis development, and other sections of the grant application, as well as with responding to review critiques. HRA consultants visit MCG once or twice yearly to meet individually with faculty and to present grantsmanship seminars, and they welcome FAX, telephone, and email communication. Contact Betty Aldridge, baldridg@augusta.edu, to learn more about this program.

MCG also provides help on the writing of papers and grants through the Office of Scientific Editorial Support; they provide assistance in the development of grant applications as well as other scholarly writing.

Area Universities and Research Centers

There are several potential sites for collaboration in and near Augusta:

■ The Psychology Department has ongoing research and master's students. The Department has expressed interest in having their students work with MCG faculty on research.

■ The University of Georgia, Athens is approximately 90 minutes from the MCG campus. The UGA Psychology Department has PhD. students in six areas of psychology: applied, clinical, cognitive-experimental, life-span developmental, social, and neuroscience & behavior. Three faculty members at Athens focus extensively or exclusively on schizophrenia: Brett Clementz, PhD., L. Stephen Miller, PhD., and Jennifer McDowell, PhD.

■ The University of South Carolina, Columbia is approximately 90 minutes from the MCG campus. The Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science at the USC Medical College of Georgia has active research collaborations with our Department. 

■ Georgia Southern, Statesboro has a College of Public Health .

■ Emory University and Morehouse University both have medical schools. The Yerkes Primate Center at Emory University is the site of world class basic behavioral neuroscience research. The Department has active collaborations with two investigators at Emory, Phillip Harvey, PhD. and Michael Compton, M.D., MPH.

■ Mercer University, Macon also has a Medical College of Georgia.

■ The Carter Center, Atlanta is an important center for advocacy and research in mental health, with strengths in policy and health services research.

Contact Information

For information of to ask questions, contact Dr. Vaughn McCall (wmccall@augusta.edu).