Gilbert receives New Faculty Research Award

A portrait of Paul Gilbert, assistant professor of community and behavioral health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.Paul Gilbert, assistant professor of community and behavioral health, has been selected to receive a College of Public Health New Faculty Research Award of $10,000. The grant funding will be used for a project titled “Natural Recovery from Alcohol Use Disorders in Southeast Iowa.” The project will be funded for the 2017 calendar year.

The purpose of the New Faculty Research Award is to assist CPH primary faculty in collecting preliminary data or pilot studies leading to larger projects.

Project Description

The majority of people in the United States with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) do not receive treatment, and some social groups, such as women and racial/ethnic minorities, are less likely to receive help than their male and White counterparts, respectively. Nevertheless, as many as three-quarters of those with AUD will achieve remission without treatment. This paradoxical phenomenon of unassisted self-change, known as natural recovery, has been long recognized by alcohol scholars but remains poorly understood.

Research over the past three decades has identified a number of factors associated with natural recovery, such as individual psychosocial characteristics, interpersonal networks, individual health status and health events, and environmental circumstances. In turn, these findings have been applied in a wide variety of intervention trials to promote natural recovery, often with only modest success in reducing problematic drinking. Such limited effectiveness may be due to incomplete understanding of the processes at work.

Further, there has been scant attention to variability of this phenomenon. Only one study to-date has examined effect modification by gender, finding differences in the psychosocial and interpersonal factors associated with natural recovery between men and women. To the researcher’s knowledge, there has been no reported investigation of differences between racial/ethnic groups, despite criticism that many early studies of natural recovery relied on overly homogeneous, predominantly White samples.

In response, this study will use qualitative methods to elaborate the processes of natural recovery among White, Black, and Latino men and women in southeast Iowa.

The specific aims of the project are:

  • To identify and characterize the process of natural recovery among adults who have not received treatment for alcohol misuse.
  • To determine the most productive recruitment strategies to reach adults who have experienced natural recovery.

The study’s preliminary data will be used in support of a larger, subsequent study to examine natural recovery.

Walker to speak on American Indian, Alaska Native behavioral health

Spotlight Series LogoNative Heritage—Understanding American Indian/Alaska Native Behavioral Health:
Pursuing the Cause of the Causes


Dale Walker, MD, Director of the One Sky Center
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Oregon Health and Science University

Wednesday, Nov. 9
12:30 – 1:30 pm
Callaghan Auditorium

The health status of American Indians and Alaskan Natives is well documented to be far below that of the general population of the United States. Chronic diseases are especially problematic, and behavioral health conditions such as depression, anxiety, addictions, suicide, and family disruption are concerns across all tribes. In addition, the ability to provide adequate, culturally sensitive, evidence-based care in this era of health reform is especially challenging.

In this presentation, Dr. Dale Walker will review the chronic illness issues of Native populations, with a special focus on suicide and substance use disorders. Dr. Walker will examine the use of culturally derived social skills training and social determinants—defined as how and where we live, learn, work and play throughout our life—as powerful integrative tools to assist our efforts in rethinking health care delivery in Native communities.

Dr. Walker is the director of the One Sky Center, a National Resource Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, Education and Research. It is dedicated to quality health care across Indian Country.

Free webinar: The Science of Addiction – The Brain on Adolescence

The National American Indian & Alaska Native ATTC is hosting a free webinar presented by Ken Winters, PhD, on  “The Science of Addiction: The Brain on Adolescence.” The webinar will take place Wednesday, Oct. 19 from noon to 1:30 p.m. Central Time.

Registration is free, but pre-registration is required to access the webinar.

To register, please use the following link:


Training future tribal health leaders

a group shot of Leadership Academy participants
Leadership Academy participants

Leaders of behavioral health programs in tribal communities have expressed concerns about the aging workforce, especially among leaders of substance abuse and mental health prevention and treatment programs.

To help develop future leaders in these professions, the National American Indian and Alaska Native Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) based in the College of Public Health has created a training program called the American Indian & Alaska Native Leadership Academy for behavioral health professionals.

The yearlong Leadership Academy consists of face-to-face events, webinars, regular conference calls, and mentor support. The curriculum was culturally adapted from an existing leadership training model with the input of tribal leaders. One significant change was to emphasize the role of mentoring in leadership development.

“The mentoring concept is much more in tune with tribal culture than a top-down protégé model of leadership,” says center director Anne Helene Skinstad, who adds that the curriculum was re-tooled to fit broadly shared cultural aspects of American Indian and Alaska Native leadership styles and decision-making processes. “Face-to-face interaction is important as well,” Skinstad notes.

Treatment approaches need to consider American Indian and Alaska Native cultures and healing practices, as well as the generational and historical trauma that affect native communities, notes Skinstad. The Leadership Academy develops culturally informed behavioral health providers who can also navigate the rapidly changing health care environment.

“The goal is for the mentees to go on to leadership positions in behavioral health and in the tribal government,” says Skinstad. “Additionally, it’s important for the mentees to have an understanding of both worlds—tribal and non-tribal— to be successful as leaders.”

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of InSight

Summit addresses heroin and opioid abuse in eastern Iowa

On Thursday, Nov. 12, the College of Public Health hosted the summit “Heroin and Opioids: A Community Crisis” that brought more than 200 experts together to address the heroin and prescription opioid abuse and overdose epidemic plaguing eastern Iowa. The event was sponsored by the United States Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa, and the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center and College of Public Health.

News Coverage

Fighting the crisis of heroin and opiod use in Iowa (op-ed)

Experts point to prescription painkillers in Iowa’s growing heroin problem

Heroin addiction ‘isn’t a moral thing,’ grieving mom says

Iowa parents “mortified” by heroin epidemic

Drug poisoning deaths plague Iowa, continue to rise

Iowa heroin deaths rise 

UI to host summit on heroin addiction

Summit to deal with heroin

Author Sam Quinones to discuss the national heroin epidemic

Author Reading

Cover of the book Dreamland by Sam QuinonesDreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic

Wednesday, Nov. 11
5:30 p.m.
Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

In a special event sponsored by the University of Iowa’s Injury Prevention Research Center, Sam Quinones will read from Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.

portrait of author Sam QuinonesThe book chronicles how, over the past 15 years, communities all over the United States where heroin had never been seen before, found themselves overrun with it. Who was bringing it here, and why were so many people suddenly eager for the comparatively cheap high it offered?

Sam Quinones is a journalist and author whose two acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction about Mexico and Mexican immigration True Tales from Another Mexico and Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream have made him, according to the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, the most original writer on Mexico and the border.

For more information, visit



images of syringe Heroin and Opioids: A Community Crisis

Thursday, Nov. 12
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
College of Public Health Building
University of Iowa

Please note: There is a waiting list to attend this conference.

This conference will bring together law enforcement, public health and health care professionals, and educators to exchange information and strategies to address the heroin and prescription opioid abuse and overdose epidemic plaguing eastern Iowa. Speakers will provide a national overview of the heroin problem and address issues specific to Iowa.

Topics include:

  • The National Heroin Threat
  • Opioid-Based Deaths in Iowa
  • Heroin in Iowa – Urban and Rural Communities
  • Heroin: Then and Now
  • Responding to Heroin and Other Opioid Addictions
  • Heroin Prevention Education in Schools and Iowa Communities

 For more information, visit

Sponsored by the United States Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa, and the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center and College of Public Health