UC Researcher Helps Improve Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment for African Americans

LaTrice Montgomery selected by National Institute on Drug Abuse to participate in early career training program, collaborate on research.


Dr. LaTrice Montgomery, assistant professor in the Counseling and Substance Abuse Counseling programs at the University of Cincinnati, was recently selected to participate in a three-year, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) training program called Learning for Early Careers in Addiction and Diversity (LEAD).

The LEAD program provides advanced research training to assistant professors and early-stage research scientists from underrepresented racial, ethnic minority groups. Montgomery, one of only two LEAD Scholars nationwide, will be matched with senior scientists affiliated with the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN) of NIDA, both at University of Cincinnati and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

“Dr. Montgomery’s drive, energy, and desire to contribute to the betterment of society already set her apart as a great researcher and faculty member,” says Janet Graden, Director of the School of Human Services. “Participating in the LEAD program will propel her to the next level and enhance her ability to make a lasting, positive impact in her field and in the lives of the ethnic minority populations she serves.”

Over the span of three years, Montgomery will receive extensive training in grant writing, with the ultimate goal of submitting a strong grant application to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She will also receive $25,000 from UCSF to conduct a pilot study during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Beginning this July and each subsequent summer during the program, she will travel to California for a month to collaborate as a visiting professor with Drs. James Sorenson and Carmen Masson at UCSF. During that time, she will concentrate on designing research studies that specifically address addiction-related issues among ethnic minority groups and discussing development of culturally-tailored treatments, advanced statistical methods, and ethical issues around working with racial, ethnic minority populations.

Driven by the loss of her maternal grandparents due to heroin overdoses, Montgomery studies substance abuse treatment outcomes among African American adults and adolescents. “Although the consequences of drug abuse are catastrophic for all racial groups, the adverse ramifications of drug use are reportedly greater in the African American community,” she says. “Although some studies have suggested that Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is effective in treating substance abuse among African American adults, the findings have been inconsistent. My long term goal is to culturally adapt MET so that it’s most effective for African Americans.”

While the topic of Montgomery’s LEAD pilot study is still being formed, it will likely center around developing a culturally appropriate version of MET for African Americans to compare to a standard version (non-culturally adapted) of MET in a larger NIH study. She will work with her UCSF mentors and Drs. Kathy Burlew (Psychology) and Theresa Winhusen (Psychiatry) at UC to further develop the focus of the study.

“I have been very impressed with Dr. Montgomery’s abilities and achievements and am looking forward to serving as her primary mentor for the LEAD program,” says Dr. Winhusen, Director of the Addiction Sciences Division. “One of my multi-site clinical trials, an evaluation of motivational enhancement therapy for pregnant substance users, fits very well with Dr. Montgomery’s interest in motivational interventions, and this dataset will serve as a source for several manuscripts that we plan to develop together.”

Attracted to UC for graduate school by Dr. Burlew and her work on reducing health disparities in substance abuse treatment, Montgomery received both her M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at UC and became a faculty member in the School of Human Services following graduation in 2012. In her first year as faculty, she was awarded a University Research Council faculty research grant, supporting her study of evidence-based treatments for African American cocaine users, and she was one of 31 finalists for the National Institutes of Health Early Independence Award for the project in 2013.

In collaboration with colleagues at Yale University School of Medicine, where she completed her National Institute on Drug Abuse sponsored clinical internship, Montgomery recently published a paper in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence titled “Preliminary findings on the association between clients’ perceived helpfulness of substance abuse treatment and outcomes: Does race matter?” and has two articles under review in top-tier substance abuse journals.

She and her colleagues in the Substance Abuse program at UC have another joint research paper under review in in a leading substance abuse journal. She is also collaborating with Dr. Burlew in Psychology on two projects focusing on the effectiveness of MET with African American substance users.