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Core Training Components

We enroll predoctoral and postdoctoral students interested in science related to addiction, mental illness, or other behavioral health disorders (COD). In all cases, training involves exposure to and experience in transdisciplinary approaches to these public health problems. We have developed a core set of common training elements and requirements to ensure that all trainees are exposed to a basic set of knowledge and experiences essential for conducting effective research in these topic areas and for advancing their professional careers. We have increasingly included training experiences specific to the application of digital health approaches to these health problems. Together, trainees and mentors develop Individual Development Plans based on the trainee’s knowledge, experience and career interests. Predoctoral trainees are immersed in their graduate program’s didactic course learning and devote approximately 20 hours per week to training with their T32 mentor(s). Postdoctoral trainees engage full time in all aspects of research including project management, grant and protocol development, and manuscript and presentation preparation.

Our program’s capacity is 4 postdoctoral and 3 predoctoral trainees. Additional trainees funded from other sources are also welcome to participate in all T32 activities (seminars, retreat, workshops, social events). We require a planned two-year commitment from postdoctoral fellows to allow time for adequate mentoring/education, development of skills, and productivity to effectively launch their academic careers; however, we consider one-year commitments in special circumstances. A third year of training is considered if requested by the primary mentor and trainee. Reasons for a third year include need for additional time to complete projects that are considered necessary to support a successful application for grant funding (K awards or R21) or for a faculty position. Predoctoral trainees typically participate for 3-5 years depending on their graduate program requirements and entry-level status. Over the proposed five years, we expect to train 10-12 postdoctoral and 5-7 predoctoral students (with some still in progress at the end of the period).

Core training elements for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees include a weekly T32 seminar on substance use, mental illness, COD, digital health research and methodologies, professional development, responsible conduct of research, rigor and reproducibility, and grant writing. Capstone projects (see below) are required for predoctoral fellows and strongly encouraged for postdoctoral fellows. Trainees also attend a weekly CTBH-sponsored seminar and attend miscellaneous seminars/workshops related to their content area, research ethics, or grant writing offered by other Dartmouth departments or other institutions. Postdoctoral trainees are also required or encouraged to audit courses or attend workshops on advanced methodologies and data analytics. A full day research retreat is held annually, and trainees attend a 2-3 hour mini-retreat twice per year. Trainees make presentations at each of these retreats. All trainees also attend and present their research at local and national scientific conferences; typically this includes at least 2 per year.

The capstone project is designed to ensure that trainees receive true exposure to research that spans addiction and other mental disorders. Each trainee in collaboration with their primary and a secondary mentor develop a capstone project that includes either or both coursework or an experiential practicum that addresses an aspect of Co-occurring Disorders research that is not part of the trainee's work with their primary mentor. The plan ideally would result in work that translates into a publication.

By the end of their T32 program, trainees should either have prepared for submission or submitted an NIH grant proposal (e.g., F-, K-, R03, R21 awards). Also, our affiliated Centers offer many opportunities for intramural grant funding (e.g., CTBH), that are available for all trainees.

Predoctoral Training Program

The predoctoral training program draws primarily from three PhD programs at Dartmouth.

1) Program in Health Services Research in The Dartmouth Institute (TDI). The TDI was established in 1989 as a locus of scientists and clinician-scholars from Dartmouth's medical and graduate schools who conduct cutting edge research to measure, organize, and improve the health care system. Their research provides evidence to inform and improve rational policy making and allocate resources effectively. They also seek to improve provider-patient decision making by promoting informed medical decisions that incorporate patients’ values and cost-effective clinical care. Over the years, the scope of TDI’s mission has expanded and evolved to include broader aspects of health services research including translating knowledge into change, deeper examinations of how social determinants, barriers, and policy impact health and health care. TDI’s PhD program prepares its graduates with the insight and scientific skills required to conduct innovative and independent research or assume leadership roles in the areas of health policy, public health, or clinical practice. Scientific preparation involves a multi-disciplinary approach that integrates relevant theories, methodological strategies, and evidence from diverse fields including clinical medicine, decision science, economics, epidemiology, biostatistics, health services, geography, political science, psychology, public health, ethics, anthropology, and sociology. A new, evolving model for the PhD program was initiated in 2021. This model enhanced the structure and support for PhD students via creation of first-year, fully supported rotations, structured course requirements, better defined qualifying exam/dissertation process, increased training in grant writing, career development, and research ethics. The TDI program has become an excellent home for our T32 predoctoral trainees. The breadth and excellence of research opportunities provided by TDI faculty attract a high quality, diverse pool of applicants each year. The primary goal of TDI’s PhD program is to produce outstanding researchers who can address critical gaps in healthcare and fundamentally improve the capacity of health care systems, including socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority populations. Disciplines represented by the TDI faculty include clinical medicine, psychiatry, decision science, economics, epidemiology, health services research, geography, political science, psychology, public health and sociology.

2) Program in Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS). Dartmouth’s PBS program offers graduate training leading to a doctoral degree in Psychological and Brain Science or Cognitive Neuroscience. Research is focused on systems and behavioral neuroscience, cognitive and computational neuroscience, and social and affective neuroscience. PBS’ Computational Social Affective Neuroscience Laboratory has a central goal to understand the computational processes underlying social interactions and their neurobiological substrates. Techniques from psychology, cognitive neuroscience, economics, and computer science are combined to develop and test novel models about how psychological processes are represented in the brain and motivate behavioral actions such as making a decision. The research focus broadly and includes: determining how social interactions can both modulate and regulate our emotions, which has implications for broader health outcomes such as treating depression, anxiety, substance use, and managing acute and chronic pain; and the neurophysiology of affective processes—pain, emotion, stress, and empathy—and how they are shaped by cognitive and social influences. Graduate students from PBS labs who develop a research focus on substance use or mental/behavioral health can be considered for predoctoral trainee slots.

3) Program in Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (QBS). The QBS PhD program seeks to train highly qualified students in bioinformatics, biostatistics, epidemiology, and health data science. Dartmouth’s QBS graduate program provides an academic experience that challenges students to think critically with an interdisciplinary lens to solve complex biomedical problems facing local and global populations. Bridging the intersection of health care, biomedicine, biostatistics, population health, and big data, QBS faculty deliver cutting-edge theory while also serving as dedicated mentors who are passionate about student outcomes and success, and foster an environment of collaboration, engagement, and lifelong learning. Students who become interested in research on substance use or mental/behavioral either during a first year rotation in the CTBH, via classes with T32 Faculty, by attending relevant seminars, or who initially apply to QBS to work with one of our T32 faculty can be considered for predoctoral trainee slots.

Our predoctoral program will also consider trainees from other PhD programs at Dartmouth (e.g., Computer Science, Engineering) that are relevant to training and research in digital health approaches to the Science of Co-Occurring Disorders.

Predoctoral trainees receive (1) tuition remission, (2) a stipend commensurate with the NIH stipend levels plus an increase to Dartmouth Colleges graduate fellowship amount (currently $41,600/year pre-qualifier and $42,100/year post-qualifier), (3) health insurance, (4) support for conference travel, (5) research supplies.

Postdoctoral Training Program

In addition to the core components described above, postdoctoral training comprises immersion in a primary mentor’s research laboratory, and the pursuit of collaborative and independent projects. The primary mentor and T32 Director work with trainees to outline a training experience that extends their previous training and ensures progress toward developing into a transdisciplinary scientist on the path to becoming an independent researcher. Postdoctoral trainees either develop a capstone project with a secondary mentor(s) within the first 18 months of their program, or they identify projects within their  primary mentor’s lab that address substance use and mental or behavioral health. Most trainees are exposed to and receive guidance from multiple mentors via collaborative projects or capstone experiences. 

Primary goals for most  postdoctoral trainees are publication of at least 2 manuscripts per year and presentations at 2 or more national scientific conferences. By the end of their program, trainees are expected to have prepared for submission or submitted an NIH or pilot grant proposal (e.g., K-, R03, R21, KL2, P30 pilot awards), or assisted their mentors with the  development of an NIH proposal. We include CTBH P30 internal pilot awards in this expectation because the applications are  structured similarly to R03 applications, i.e., sections and documentation required by the NIH, and are reviewed by external reviewers using the NIH grant review format. Multiple other internal grant opportunities are available.

Training also focuses heavily on professional development via direct mentoring, the T32 seminar, Dartmouth-wide postdoctoral career building activities, external grant writing opportunities, and strong encouragement and modeling of networking activities.  

For trainees interested in clinical training (i.e., clinical psychology PhDs), the postdoctoral program can be designed to involve limited clinical training, however, this is not an emphasis of the program. Those interested in clinical training meet with the Director and their mentor to develop an acceptable training plan. Trainees can access expertise and clinical supervision with Drs. Brunette, Budney, Lord, or Stanger - licensed psychologists or psychiatrists. In addition, the trainee’s mentor and the Director can assist with identifying  clinical settings, either at Dartmouth Health or in the Community that can provide limited clinical experiences  and supervision. Such training is typically not more than 10% time, and may also occur in the context of a research project. We have had multiple postdoctoral trainees who have successfully sought and received clinical training, and excelled in the program (e.g., 2 are now tenure-track professors at R1 institutions and another is active and thriving in our program). 

Postdoctoral trainees receive (1) a stipend commensurate with experience using the NIH stipend levels: (currently $56,484 for zero years of experience), (2) health insurance, (3) support for conference travel, (4) research supplies.

If interested, contact Lisa A. Marsch, Ph.D. (T32 Director) at lisa.a.marsch@dartmouth.edu or Catherine Stanger, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Program Director) at catherine.stanger@dartmouth.edu.