Month: February 2013

Dr. Peter C. Trask, PhD, Speaking at CHIP Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Thursday, February 21, 2013, from 12:30 – 1:30 pm, the lecture series hosts Peter C. Trask, PhD, MPH, Director, Global Evidence & Value Development in Oncology, Sanofi, Inc., Cambridge, MA, who gives a lunchtime lecture about “In the Absence of Adherence: Identified Issues across the Cancer Continuum.”  This lecture is co-sponsored by UConn Department of Kinesiology and the Connecticut Children Medical Center.

The lecture will be in Video Conference Room 204 on the second floor of Ryan at 2006 Hillside Road at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.  For a map of the area, look at

You can also view this talk streamed live during or after the lecture at the following link:

Peter TraskPeter Trask received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Maine in 1997.  As a postdoctoral fellowship in Behavioral Medicine at the University of Michigan, he began a research program focused on assessing and treating emotional distress and changes in quality of life in individuals diagnosed with cancer; with his research studies focusing on a variety of cancer diagnoses and treatments. He continued this research, and provided therapy to cancer patients, during the subsequent four years that he was a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan. In 2003, Dr. Trask moved from Michigan to Rhode Island to become an Assistant Professor of Research at Brown University in the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine. He continued to research issues of concern to cancer patients, while pursuing his Master’s in Public Health. Upon completion of his MPH from Brown University in 2005, Dr. Trask was employed in the Outcomes Research group in the Oncology Business Unit at Pfizer. During this time, he was responsible for developing strategies for assessing health economic and patient-reported outcomes for multiple early and late phase oncology compounds.  Most recently, he has continued this work as a Director in Oncology in the Global Evidence and Value Development group at Sanofi, Inc.

CHIP PI Advising FDA on New Cigarette Warning Labels

L Snyder
Leslie Snyder, PhD

UConn Communication Professor Leslie Snyder, who directs the Center for Health Communication and Marketing (CHCM) at CHIP, has been awarded a nearly $1 million National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant to assess the potential impact of controversial, new graphic warning labels for cigarette packages and to suggest directions for future national anti-tobacco campaigns.

The new labels, which must cover 50 percent of cigarette packs, are a requirement of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which also gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products for the first time. The new graphic warnings labels were supposed to be on boxes starting September, 2012, but legal challenges by tobacco companies have placed them on hold for the present, and it is likely that the case will be sent to the Supreme Court.

The nine images selected by the FDA include a healthy and smoke-blackened lung side by side, a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole in his neck, and a staged photo of a corpse on a coroner’s table.

FDA officials have called the graphic warnings “the most significant change to health warnings in 25 years.”

cigarette boxes for IRB submission 2
Dr. Snyder’s research team created sample cigarette boxes with the new FDA warning labels to show study participants.

Dr. Snyder, a CHIP principal investigator (PI) whose own center is a CDC-established Center of Excellence, specifically will study the impact of the graphic warning labels in two high-risk populations: youth and pregnant women.

Initial work has involved teenagers ages 13 to 18 recruited from two Hartford high schools with predominantly African American and Puerto Rican populations, and from two other areas of the country (Nashville and Milwaukee) with relatively high teen smoking rates. Young adults 18-24 years old also will be studied using Internet-based surveys.

The pregnant women from various target populations (urban and rural African Americans, urban Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, rural whites and non-rural whites) will be recruited from locations across the country.

To understand how people are reacting to the graphic warning labels, Dr. Snyder will have experimental and control arms, with only some individuals in the target populations being shown the nine proposed labels. Dr. Snyder and her colleagues anticipate different images will prove more effective with different target populations.

In addition to studying reactions to the images, Dr. Snyder’s team will conduct surveys, focus groups and interviews to elicit and test additional targeted messages to reduce smoking initiation and promote quitting among smokers.

The research is being used to inform a new youth tobacco prevention program the FDA plans to launch next fall, regardless of the status of the injunction against the labels. Dr. Snyder and her team have been sharing their preliminary findings with the FDA and with the contractors recently hired to run the youth campaigns. One important trend, for example, is that many young people smoke occasionally and neither think of themselves as smokers nor consider themselves at risk. The youth media campaign will need messages and media strategies to encourage them to smoke less or not at all, Dr. Snyder said.

The goal of Dr. Snyder’s message development and testing for the pregnant smoker target populations is two-fold: smoking cessation and “staying quit” after pregnancy.

“Half of pregnant women stop smoking during pregnancy before their first doctor’s visit, but a significant number of those women start smoking again after having their babies,” Dr. Snyder said.

Dr. Snyder’s collaborators at UConn include CHIP Affiliate Dr. Michelle Cloutier, a UConn Health Center (UCHC) and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) pediatric pulmonologist,  Dr. Cheryl Oncken, also from the Health Center, who specializes in smoking cessation in pregnant women, and Dr. Hart Blanton, a social psychologist. Dr. Cloutier’s team at CCMC is conducting the warning label research in Hartford with teens and pregnant women.   Dr. Oncken is consulting on the project design, potential messages, and interpretation of findings with pregnant women.  Dr. Blanton is working on understanding the psychological reactions to the graphic warnings and the persuasion strategies that can be used in future FDA campaigns. Joy Larson is the team’s Project Manager.

Dr. Snyder is conducting her study as part of an elite group of researchers. In addition to Dr. Snyder’s CHCM, the Lung Cancer Disparities Center at Harvard University, the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the Health Communication Research Laboratory at St. Louis University have been awarded NCI funds to study the impact of the FDA-required graphic warning labels with different target populations.

Growing More Cancer Research at CHIP

When asked to describe her new role at UConn’s Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention (CHIP), renowned health psychologist and new UConn faculty member Meg Gerrard replied succinctly: “To grow more cancer research at CHIP.”

Dr. Gerrard’s task, however, involves far more groundwork and outreach than her initial response indicated.

Since arriving on UConn’s campus from Dartmouth College at the beginning of the fall semester, the new CHIP affiliate and research professor in UConn’s Psychology Department has worked diligently with CHIP Boundary Spanner and Research Scientist Alicia Dugan to become more familiar with the cancer research scene in Connecticut. Dr. Gerrard has met with UConn Executive Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean of the UConn Medical School, Dr. Frank Torti, as well as many other cancer researchers at the Health Center and at Storrs.

Meg Gerrard, PhDAdditionally, in an effort to foster multidisciplinary research collaborations, she launched a new Cancer Research Interest Group (RIG) at CHIP. Dr. Gerrard, who has nearly four decades of experience studying adolescent and young adult health behavior, referred to the first meeting of the CHIP Cancer RIG in early December as her “first visible step” toward facilitating more cancer research at CHIP. More than a dozen researchers from almost as many disciplines attended and shared their cancer research interests with one another, with many other UConn cancer researchers expressing an interest in joining the RIG.

This “beginning of a network” jumpstarted a process that will be continued and formalized – the sharing of information not only about the cancer research being conducted but also about the collaborators and community organizations across the state that might serve as resources for CHIP affiliates in search of research sites and participants.

“Sometimes it can be very hard to gain entry into high-risk populations,” Dr. Gerrard explained, and the Cancer RIG is one way to help to facilitate that entry.

Dr. Gerrard and others who attended the first Cancer RIG meeting at CHIP met UConn cancer researchers who are already active in Hartford’s African American community. They also were introduced to Markos Samos, with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, whose interest in increasing cancer control on Native American reservations in the region led to Dr. Gerrard recently securing one of UConn’s large faculty grants. Dr. Gerrard’s new grant will expand the National Cancer Institute-funded cancer prevention research that she has been conducting with African American populations to Native Americans residing on reservations in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. With the assistance of Mr. Samos, Dr. Gerrard has gained entry into these reservation communities where she will conduct pilot work to better understand the barriers to and predictors of HPV vaccination among Native American populations. Dr. Gerrard said that her research is intended to ultimately lead to the development of interventions for both African American and Native American populations.

To all of her efforts, Dr. Gerrard brings the perspective she gained most recently during four years as Co-Director of the Cancer Control Research Program at Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Comprehensive Cancer Center. Comprehensive cancer centers, Dr. Gerrard explained, focus on cancer treatment, cancer prevention in the community, and research on all different types of cancers. Norris Cotton Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of approximately three dozen such centers nationwide.

At CHIP, Dr. Gerrard, her husband and research collaborator Psychology Professor Rick Gibbons, and Communication Sciences Professor Leslie Snyder focus on cancer prevention research. Other CHIP-affiliated researchers, such as Psychology Professor Crystal Park and Human Development and Family Studies Professors Tom Blank and Keith Bellizzi, focus on cancer survivorship issues.

Dr. Gerrard’s vision is to expand CHIP’s team of cancer researchers to mirror the range of expertise found at comprehensive cancer centers by recruiting highly-regarded faculty in additional areas of cancer control research, such as screening, psycho-social predictors of cancer, and treatment decision-making.

In addition, Dr. Gerrard is working with UConn School of Medicine Professor Lori Bastian, who specializes in women’s cancers and also recently joined UConn’s faculty, to foster more cancer collaborations between campuses.

“It is an advantage that we are both starting at UConn at the same time and are both looking to build new cancer research programs,” Dr. Gerrard said.

Dr. Gerrard indicated that a common goal that she and Dr. Bastian have is to encourage increased collaborations across the two campuses by securing pilot funding specifically for teams comprised of cancer researchers from both campuses. This idea is modeled after the very successful pilot funding competition that was jointly sponsored last year by CHIP and Yale University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA) to foster increased collaboration among HIV/AIDS researchers from both institutions.

CHIP Associate Director Deborah Cornman indicated how fortunate that CHIP and UConn are to have Dr. Gerrard spearheading the efforts to expand the cancer research program here at UConn.

“Dr. Gerrard is a remarkably talented and well-respected researcher with years of experience in the area of cancer prevention and control. She brings a fresh perspective and new ideas that will no doubt be beneficial to CHIP, to UConn, and to the field of cancer research,” Dr. Cornman commented.

The next meeting of the new CHIP Cancer RIG will take place in February. If you are interested in attending and/or learning more about Dr. Gerrard’s efforts to facilitate more cancer research at CHIP, please contact her at

Dr. Patrick Wilson, PhD, Speaking at CHIP Thursday, February 7, 2013

On Thursday, February 7, 2013, from 12:30 – 1:30 pm, the lecture series hosts Patrick Wilson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, who will give a lunch-time lecture about “Using a situational framework to understand mood, well-being, and HIV risk among ethnic minority MSM.”

The lecture will be in Video Conference Room 204 on the second floor of Ryan at 2006 Hillside Road at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.  For a map of the area, look at

You can also view this talk streamed live during or after the lecture at the following link:

Patrick WilsonPatrick Wilson, PhD, focuses on research related to HIV risk and prevention, ethnicity, and sexuality among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United States. Dr. Wilson’s work falls into three broad topic areas including the intersecting roles that psychological factors (i.e., self-concept, identity, self-efficacy) and socio-contextual factors (i.e., social networks, discrimination and stigma, religion, trauma) play in explaining HIV risk and protective behaviors among ethnic minority MSM; the situational factors that may promote or prevent sexual risk-taking, substance use, and poor mental health among MSM; and the development, implementation, evaluation, and translation of primary and secondary HIV prevention interventions targeting youth and MSM. Cutting across these topical areas is his use of innovative and rigorous quantitative and qualitative methodologies to answer research questions of interest. Dr. Wilson’s research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CHIP Featured Employee for February

Beth KraneBeth Krane is CHIP’s featured employee for the month of February. If you don’t already know her and her role at CHIP, we invite you to read this brief Q&A with her…

How many years have you worked at CHIP/ UConn? Five years at CHIP on a part-time basis for all five years; eight years at UConn, including my tenure at CHIP.

What are your primary responsibilities? My primary responsibilities at CHIP involve communication and dissemination of research activities and accomplishments. This includes managing the writing of CHIP’s Annual Report each spring semester, writing news content for CHIP’s web site and for our periodic CHIP Research News emails, and helping to publicize CHIP research results and business services. I also serve as the Center’s liaison to University Communications and assist with planning for media outreach involving CHIP researchers.

What is your favorite part of working at CHIP? The people, of course, and the feelings of accomplishment and pride that stem from being a part of one of the most successful and highly regarded units on campus.

Please share a little bit about your professional life before CHIP: After earning my Master’s Degree in Journalism, I worked as a newspaper reporter in two highly competitive Florida media markets for about 5 years, covering a broad range of topics from local government to education and health. I moved back to my home state and began working for UConn Communications as part of the Media Relations team responsible for promoting faculty research in January 2005 and worked there for three years before joining CHIP.

What is your favorite place or event on campus? I like the Benton Museum and gift shop, and the peaceful courtyard and shaded garden outside the museum.

What are we most likely to find you doing when you are not at work?  Wrangling my two rambunctious boys, ages 3 and 6, or trying to squeeze in time for a run.