The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health has chosen Anka A. Vujanovic, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, as one of nine awarded scientists for this year. The researcher will receive $19,250 to fund her mental health research.
Currently, Vujanovic is conducting a research project analyzing both the individual and combined effects of post-traumatic stress symptom severity and distress tolerance as the perceived or actual capacity to tolerate negative emotional states. The investigation will focus on treatment adherence, duration of stay, and response to treatment.
“This study has the potential to significantly impact both public policy and clinical research advancement,” Vujanovic said. “It also has the potential to build upon our understanding of how the individual’s ability to tolerate negative emotional states might affect treatment outcomes in acute-care psychiatric inpatient settings, ultimately leading to the development of novel, evidence-based interventions for this at-risk population.”
Nine tenure-track assistant professors in Texas, including Vujanovic, were chosen among 51 applicants from Texas universities this year, and were awarded $173,250 in grants by the foundation in order to conduct innovative research.
The purpose of the grants is to advance recovery and wellness in Texas, increase the pool of junior faculty doing quality mental health research, and encourage the disbursement of research findings. The Foundation funds not only research, but also mental health services, policy analysis and public information, and supports presentations at state and national conferences and meetings.
“We are immensely proud of this year’s crop of mental health research grantees,” said the executive director of the Hogg Foundation and vice president for diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr. “The work of these talented researchers will result in enduring contributions to our understanding of mental health.”
In addition to Vujanovic, the other winners include Dr. Erin Barnes from the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences Counseling at The University of Texas at El Paso, who will examine the relationship between the attributions of veterans with service-connected mental health conditions and recovery; Dr. Jodi Berger Cardoso from the University of Houston, who is going to study mental health and parenting stress in Latino immigrants and their children within the context of deportation risk; and Dr. McClain Sampson, also of University of Houston, who is going to study the feasibility and effectiveness of a home visit intervention for postpartum depression in a primary care setting that predominantly serves low-income women of color.
Dr. Sara Nowakowski from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston was also awarded for her research on the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy in the treatment of insomnia among peri- and postmenopausal women with major depressive disorder, along with Dr. Samuel S. Richardson from the University of Texas at Austin, who is focusing on the interactive maps that precisely represent the mental health workforce shortage in Texas, using ArGIS software and census tract data, and Dr. Christopher P. Salas-Wright, also from UT Austin, who is testing a student veteran-adapted version of the “Keepin’ it REAL” intervention, which focuses on the development of decision-making and substance use resistance skills among student veterans experiencing psychological distress.
Finally, project funding for a study on the association between early life stress, epigenetics, and brain activation in anxious children at high risk for bipolar disorder was granted to Dr. Donna Roybal from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, as well as Dr. Adam T. Schmidt from the Department of Psychology and Philosophy at the Sam Houston State University, who was awarded a grant to conduct a study that examines mental health symptoms and protective factors in children of incarcerated fathers.
Established in 1940 and committed to supporting the study and treatment of mental health, the Hogg Foundation was created by the family of the former Texas Governor James S. Hogg and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.