PROVIDENCE – The Miriam Hospital, owned by Lifespan Corp., recently received an $11.1 million grant from the federal government to establish the first medical research center in Rhode Island devoted to the study of stress, trauma and resilience, Lifespan announced Thursday.
The five-year, $11.1 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Science will create what’s known as a “Center of Biomedical Research Excellence” at The Miriam Hospital, contributing to “growing scientific interest” in the impact of stress and trauma – particularly childhood trauma – on long-term health and wellness. The center will be known for short as the “STAR COBRE,” according to Lifespan, the first word being an acronym for stress, trauma and resilience.
Lifespan said the center will build up research capacity at The Miriam Hospital, while also establishing partnerships with other collaborators within its own hospital system, as well as with the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Care New England Health System’s Butler Hospital. Study topics at the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence will include the effects on mental and physical wellbeing caused by child neglect, sexual abuse and food insecurity, according to announcement from Lifespan.
The STAR COBRE will be the first research center in Rhode Island to focus on stress, trauma, and resilience, said Dr. Laura R. Stroud, the director of The Miriam’s Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, and a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who will be the principal investigator for the new initiative.
The establishment of the center is timely due to the toll on mental health wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic in the past 19 months, Stroud said.
“It is a critical time for research into stress and trauma, and the pathways to resilience,” Stroud said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the global burden of stress, trauma, and adversity and has exaggerated racial, ethnic, and socio-economic inequalities. The COBRE will support the Miriam Hospital to emerge as a leader and as a local and national resource in this area of research.”
Dr. Audrey Tyrka, who will be co-directing the new research initiative, said she’s impressed by the team that The Miriam Hospital is assembling with Lifespan and Care New England, calling the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence the “culmination of interdisciplinary collaborations with brilliant and dedicated senior and early career investigators and senior scientists, support staff and leadership.”
While the grant from the National Institute of General Medical Science is for five years, it potentially could be expanded to three phases over 15 years, the hospital said.
Dr. Timothy J. Babineau, CEO and president of Lifespan, said he expects the new center to “provide invaluable contributions to our knowledge about stress and trauma” in the midst of a terrible pandemic.
“It will also enhance Lifespan’s growing stature as a global leader of medical research,” Babineau said. “We are once again demonstrating that we have phenomenal talent within our health system as well as the vision and leadership to effectively partner with our health care and academic partners in Rhode Island to spur our development into a hub of medical and research excellence.”
The Miriam Hospital said listed several proposed research initiatives to be conducted at the new center: A project investigating how childhood maltreatment impacts executive function, rumination and mental health symptoms in adolescents, building on a prior 12-year prospective study; a project using real time experience sampling in pregnant women to examine links between childhood sexual abuse and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy; and a clinical trial to examine the impact of food insecurity on diet, inflammatory and metabolic markers, and summer weight gain.
“The broad range of topics being studied by our centers is reflective of the ambitious and important research that Lifespan is undertaking and our determination to seek answers to questions that can better all of our lives,” said Lifespan Vice President of Research and Chief Research Officer Michael Henderson. “It’s a culture that helps us attract and retain some of the most accomplished and driven scientists, clinicians, medical students and residents.”
The federal grant was supported by Rhode Island’s federal delegation, including U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline.
“I commend Miriam Hospital and its outstanding team of doctors, researchers, and health professionals for winning this competitive grant,” Reed said. “This federal funding will provide researchers with the necessary resources to take on high-priority research on the role that stress, trauma, and resilience play in health and wellness in Rhode Island.”
Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com.