University of Texas at Austin social work professor receives $622,465 National Institute on Drug Abuse mentored award

AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. Lori Holleran, assistant professor of social work at The University of Texas at Austin, has received a $622,465, five-year Mentored Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Half of the award allows Holleran to receive mentored training from some of the top national experts in the field of adolescent drug abuse, particularly acculturation and prevention, including training visits to nationally known prevention research centers. The other half will be used for her research in the area of acculturation and drug prevention programs for minority youth.

“I am devoted to an academic career in drug prevention for high-risk youth,” said Holleran. She will use her five years as a mentored scientist to build a foundation for contributions to the research on substance abuse prevention, including developing and implementing a prevention intervention that addresses the needs of Mexican American youth.

According to Holleran, culture clearly affects adolescent drug attitudes and behavior. Experts, she said, have made great strides in awareness that minority youth have unique life experiences, risk factors and resiliency affecting their choices regarding substance use.

“I’m convinced that prevention is the way to go because it is better to intervene before serious problems arise and treatment interventions tend to have limited success, particularly with high-risk youth,” Holleran said. “But more research is needed regarding the effectiveness of drug prevention efforts, specifically among high-risk youth who are in non-school settings often missed by prevention programs.

“There are just too many young people falling through the cracks.”

Prevention programs, Holleran said, should grow out of the community they are going to serve, and then the community should take ownership of the program.

“In addition, we need to learn from adolescents what needs to go into a prevention program,” she said.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s mentored awards enable it to attract some of the most promising talent available and bring scientists early in their careers into addiction research. It is essential to keep training investigators who have broad and varied expertise if the problem of drug abuse is going to be solved, institute officials said.

“This federal mentoring award is the first to be awarded to a faculty member in the School of Social Work,” said Barbara White, dean of the School of Social Work. “Dr. Holleran’s accomplishment on her first attempt is a source of pride for all of us, and it greatly augments our increasingly strong research agenda.”

Since 1998 funding for research through the Center for Social Work Research at the university has more than doubled. In fiscal year 2003, research and training contracts and grants brought in more than $7 million and multi-year funding through 2008 is about $17 million.

After receiving her undergraduate education at Duke University, Holleran worked as a clinical social worker in a New Jersey psychiatric hospital. Her research interest dates back to her master’s and doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania and Arizona State University when she became actively involved in studies focusing on adolescent ethnic identity formation and substance abuse prevention.

For more information contact: Nancy Neff, 512-471-6504.