Five Questions With: Laura R. Stroud

Laura R. Stroud, director and principal investigator at a newly established Stress, Trauma, and Resilience Center of Biomedical Research Excellence at The Miriam Hospital, discusses the center’s operations and its goals.

Funded by a five-year, $11.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, researchers at the center will focus on the impact that childhood neglect, sexual abuse and lack of access to healthy foods can have on mental and physical health later in life. 

PBN: What is the timeline for the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence and when will it be staffed and up and running?

STROUD: The Stress, Trauma, and Resilience COBRE seminar series is already up and running – we have had some amazing presentations by early-career faculty. Project leaders have begun their mentoring programs and will be starting their innovative research studies over the next six months.

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PBN: What sorts of topics do researchers plan to study, and is there a focus on particular demographics such as certain age groups, ethnicities or people experiencing specific mental health problems? 

STROUD: One of our projects is focused on understanding how child maltreatment influences thought processes and how mental health symptoms can be measured in the real world using a cellphone app. Another study is looking at how food insecurity impacts stress biology and summer weight gain.

Both studies focus on children from disadvantaged backgrounds across a range of racial and ethnic identities. The STAR COBRE is focused on the impact of stress, trauma and resilience across the lifespan and across health and disease outcomes, and our research has a particular focus on health disparities.

PBN: How will patients be involved with the center?  

STROUD: Patients could be involved in a variety of research studies within the STAR COBRE. Our current research studies focus on children living with food insecurity and adolescents with a history of child maltreatment, but future studies might include patients who are pregnant or patients with cardiac disease, depression, or substance use.

Because stress, adversity and trauma have such a pervasive impact across the lifespan and across physiological systems, we expect that new research coming out of our center would have relevance for many patient populations.

PBN: Which health care facilities and providers do you expect the COBRE to work with? 

STROUD: We are hoping to work with a broad array of health care facilities and providers, from pediatric to adult providers and from mental health to physical health providers. We are also very excited about our Community Partnerships Core, where we will be partnering with state and community agencies to plan and carry out our studies and further develop the STAR COBRE.

PBN: What do you plan to do with data and study results collected by the center’s researchers?   

STROUD: We plan to share results with the communities involved in our studies, our community partners, on our website and with social media, as well as at local and national conferences and in scientific journals that are read all over the world.

We are going to host STAR COBRE symposia where researchers will showcase their findings and obtain feedback from senior researchers in the field. We also hope to leverage the initial study findings as preliminary data for large-scale grants that offer even more potential for impact. Our goal is for STAR COBRE study results to yield as much benefit as possible.

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN contributing reporter.