Interdisciplinary seed grants expand telemedicine research

Carolyn Lauckner, an assistant professor of health promotion and behavior in the College of Public Health, is working with Bernadette Heckman, associate professor and director of clinical training in the Doctoral Counseling Psychology program and Health Psychology program in the College of Education, on a project using telemedicine to meet the mental health needs of people living with HIV/AIDS in rural Georgia thanks to funding provided by UGA’s Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant Program.

Lauckner and Heckman are working with the Georgia Department of Public Health’s existing statewide telemedicine network to pilot the expansion of mental health services using innovative videoconferencing technologies, allowing patients with limited access or transportation to receive care at no charge.

“This community-based research has been a great learning experience for me,” Lauckner said. “Having a better sense of the challenges facing community health clinics has helped me to better plan for and think through additional community-based projects I can do in the future.” 

The project also provides a unique experiential learning opportunity for Heckman’s students, who are providing therapy. Heckman meets weekly with the students to discuss suggested therapies for the patients, and the students have presented their work at a conference. 

“Students want to be involved in this project,” Heckman said. “It’s a great training opportunity, and students know that this is going to be the next wave of mental health services.”

Lauckner and Heckman are collaborating on a paper and plan to submit another grant proposal related to their work soon.

Eleven other UGA faculty teams received Interdisciplinary Seed Grant awards last year are also working to find common ground and expand their research. Their projects were selected from more than 150 research proposals.

The university’s investment of $1.37 million in the program has generated $12.9 million in awarded grants, with the potential for more in the future.

“A primary goal of the president’s seed grant program was to help teams demonstrate a history of working together to develop preliminary data that would make them competitive for major external grants,” said David Lee, vice president for research. “A return on investment of nearly 10-to-1 is thrilling.”

The Interdisciplinary Seed Grant Program represents a strategic investment by the University of Georgia in its faculty and the research enterprise.

“I am pleased the Interdisciplinary Seed Grant Program has achieved such impressive results in the short time since it was established,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “The success of this initiative demonstrates the value of supporting trailblazing research that combines the strengths of UGA faculty members across campus.”

Interdisciplinary Seed Grant proposals were reviewed by a team of UGA faculty and administrators assembled by Lee and Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach. The review team selected winning proposals based on demonstrated potential to address grand challenges and to generate new external funding in the future. Inclusion of public service and outreach components also was considered, among other criteria.

“All of Georgia benefits from a secure food supply and energy efficiency,” Frum said. “This project exemplifies the positive impact that Georgia’s land-grant and sea-grant institution can have on the state.”

For all of the recipients, these grants are providing new opportunities.

“Faculty appreciate the importance of interdisciplinary collaborations, particularly when it comes to addressing the major challenges embodied in UGA’s Great Commitments,” Lee said. “But realistically, it requires seed funding in order for faculty to devote the necessary time and resources to pursue these new avenues. This is why the president’s seed grant program has been so important.”

Read the original news story on UGA Today.

– Krista Richmond

Posted on January 22, 2019.

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