Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

MSC 09 5030
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Phone: 505-272-2223

Claire Wilcox, M.D., Earns Prestigious NIAA Research Award

December 5, 2012

Congratulations to Claire Wilcox, M.D., who has received a K23 mentored career development award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)  . This 5-year award will support Dr. Wilcox’s development as an investigator using functional neuroimaging to investigate the neurobiological mechanisms of pharmacotherapies for alcohol use disorders.

“This is a very competitive award and a major achievement,” noted Michael Bogenschutz, M.D., Vice Chair for Research, when he announced the award.

Dr. Wilcox first became interested in addictions in college during neurobiology coursework at UC Berkeley and that interest grew steadily over the course of her clinical training in internal medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. “I noticed how many chronic health problems were related to addictions. I wanted to get to the source of those problems and to understand and positively affect addictive disorders.” As a result, she decided to complete her residency in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF. Dr. Wilcox then came to our department for a fellowship in Addiction Psychiatry.

As evidenced by her educational history, Dr. Wilcox had always been interested in the neuromechanisms of health and illness. “In internal medicine, there are often objective markers that guide specific treatments,” she says. “These are more difficult to come by in psychiatry.” Dr. Wilcox wants to change that through her research.

According to Dr. Wilcox, her K23 study – known as a Mentored Patient-Oriented Career Development Award  – “uses neurobiological measures through brain imaging, neuropsychological measures, and self-report measures to try to understand how an effective treatment for alcoholism works. On the whole, less than 50% of people with alcoholism get better with treatment. This study will help researchers develop better treatments for alcoholism because if we know why the treatments we use are working, and in whom the treatments work best, then we may be able to make treatment more effective by targeting treatments to individuals who would be most likely to benefit and by guiding development of more effective treatments in the future.”

The overall goals of the NIH Research Career Development program are “to help ensure that a diverse pool of highly trained scientists is available in appropriate scientific disciplines to address the Nation's biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs.” The specific objectives of the K23 Award  are to: 

  • Encourage research-oriented clinicians to develop independent research skills and gain experience in advanced methods and experimental approaches needed to become an independent investigator conducting patient-oriented research.
  • Increase the pool of clinical researchers who can conduct patient-oriented studies, capitalizing on the discoveries of biomedical research and translating them to clinical settings.
  • Support the career development of investigators who have made a commitment to focus their research endeavors on patient-oriented research.