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NIH researchers join UNTHSC as alcohol/substance abuse program expands


By Sally Crocker

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Drs. Mun, Litt and Lewis

Three nationally known alcohol and substance abuse researchers — Dr. Melissa A. Lewis, Dr. Dana M. Litt and Dr. Eun-Young Mun – have been appointed to the UNTHSC School of Public Health faculty, underlining the school’s intent to become a national center of excellence in substance abuse education and research.

“We welcome the opportunities these new colleagues bring to the student experience, research program and educational platform. Drs. Lewis, Litt and Mun stand out in the field for their high-impact, NIH-funded substance abuse research,” said Dr. Dennis L. Thombs, Dean. “Their work has been crucial in helping to develop alcohol and drug abuse interventions and solutions for adolescents and college-age youth, as well as adult populations.”

Drs. Lewis and Litt join UNTHSC from the University of Washington’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Mun comes to UNTHSC from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick, where she served as a tenured professor in the school’s Center of Alcohol Studies and Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology.

Dr. Lewis is nationally recognized for her research on risky sexual behavior and alcohol use among young adults. Her research has been funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation. She has authored more than 90 peer-reviewed publications, many of which appear in top-tier addictions journals.

Dr. Litt has been funded through NIAAA for studies on alcohol use among young adults, social media impact on drinking norms among adolescents, alcohol-related risk interventions and ways to motivate campus change. She has authored 26 peer-reviewed journal articles and four book chapters on health behaviors, alcohol, sexual risk taking and adolescent marijuana use and abuse.

Dr. Mun is a nationally recognized expert in using “big data” to design and analyze alcohol intervention trials. Her current R01 research project is designed to utilize data more efficiently and meaningfully to guide health recommendations. Her research has been continuously supported by NIH since 2010, and she was recognized last year as having one of the most exciting new projects funded by NIH at the Inaugural NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival. She has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles, 14 book chapters and three advanced textbooks.

“Alcohol and substance abuse takes a tremendous toll on lives and health care costs across the United States and represents a significant public health problem for our nation,” Dean Thombs said. “Consequences like risky social and sexual behaviors are especially concerning among adolescent and college-age drinkers. It’s critical to focus on research in these areas that can make a difference to populations across the country, which is why we consider this to be one of our top priorities as a school of public health.”

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