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Chalk Talk w/ Elizabeth (Betsy) Charron, PhD, MPH

Chalk Talk w/ Elizabeth (Betsy) Charron, PhD, MPH

Betsy Charron, PhD, MPH (left), is a postdoctoral fellow in the Program of Addiction Research, Clinical Care, Knowledge and Advocacy (PARCKA) within the Division of Epidemiology at the University of Utah. Betsy is a health services researcher focused on identifying and evaluating approaches to improve reproductive, maternal, and perinatal health care delivery for women and children impacted by substance use. She holds a PhD from Clemson University and a MPH from Tulane University.

The Greater Intermountain Node was founded in 2019 to expand the existing National Institute of Drug Abuse Clinical Trial Network (CTN) infrastructure by developing and testing innovative interventions for opioid use disorder, preventing overdose, expanding the settings for Network research, and bringing new research expertise to the Network. The GIN is housed within the Program for Addiction Research, Clinical Care, Knowledge, and Advocacy (PARCKA) within the Division of Epidemiology within the Department of Internal Medicine within the University Of Utah School Of Medicine.

This is "Chalk Talk", where each month the Greater Intermountain Node speaks with a different investigator, clinician, researcher, or coordinator from one of our various studies.

GIN: Betsy, welcome to the team and Utah! Can you tell us about yourself?

Thank you! I’m happy to be on the team and working as a postdoctoral fellow at the U! Before joining the GIN, I received my PhD in Applied Health Research and Evaluation from Clemson University. I am an applied health services researcher focused on improving health care for individuals who use substances. My primary research interests are in reproductive, maternal and child health. My dissertation research examined trends and patterns in contraceptive use among substance-using women. I have a MPH in international health and really enjoy working on global health projects.

One of my favorite past projects included interviewing traditional healers and heads of households in Kenya to learn about how Kenyans use and value traditional medicine. I was born in Phoenix, AZ and grew up in metro-Atlanta. My coolest non-memorable experience was when I was one year old. I wandered off in a hotel in Phoenix, and Mr. T picked me up and returned me to my parents. Too bad there were no selfies back then! I’m a friend to all dogs, a peppermint tea fanatic, and love being outdoors.

GIN: You are the Project Coordinator for the Healthy Living Study (CTN-0101). We recently spoke with Michael Incze, MD who will be the Clinical Champion on the study. Dr. Incze shared that the study will identify and address potentially risky opioid use patterns – which he finds extremely important. What do you find important about this research?

The Healthy Living Study is incredibly important because it is focused on addressing risky opioid use among patients who do not meet the criteria for opioid use disorder. As we all know opioid abuse has become a national crisis. Discovering effective interventions to prevent opioid misuse and abuse from becoming addiction is crucial to curb the opioid and overdose epidemics. The Health Living Study is addressing this significant need and has the potential to make an important public health impact.

GIN: We know that you have meaningful experience in maternal health. Can you tell us more about that experience?

In graduate school I worked as part a team that evaluated a comprehensive, coordinated care model to treat pregnant women with opioid use disorder (OUD) and their infants with neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. The model included preconception/prenatal identification of women with OUD, rooming-in on the Mother/Baby unit, and developmental follow-up for the children. After finding that this model of care resulted in significant inpatient cost savings compared with typical care, our team expanded the model to several hospitals across South Carolina. As part of the implementation evaluation, I was able to learn about the barriers and facilitators to incorporating such a program into rural and community hospitals. Because this model of care was developed at an academic medical center, it was important for us to determine how to best translate it to different types of hospitals, many with limited resources. The overall experience helped me to appreciate the challenge of getting new programs adopted into community settings and the importance and value of dissemination and implementation research.

GIN: Several of PARCKA’s projects and ours center on maternal health research, such as the MOMs Study, the OPTIMOM Study, and SUPeRAD in rural Utah. Why do you find maternal health research so important?

Maternal health research is so important because maternal health impacts not only a woman but her child(ren) throughout the life course. Ppregnancy through the postpartum period is a critical time when women may be inspired to make and sustain life changes. This period in a woman’s life is a well-known window of opportunity for behavior change. Simultaneously, because women have increased access to and use of health care during this time, it’s the perfect timepoint to affect change. As a maternal health researcher, I feel like my work impacts the health of the current population and that of future generations, which is really exciting

GIN: You recently joined our team as a Postdoctoral Fellow. We are so happy you are here – what drew you to the University of Utah?

There is a lot of important reproductive, maternal and child health research happening at the U, which was a big draw. I was also attracted to PARCKA because of the center’s interdisciplinary approach to addiction research, which is consistent with my training, and many ongoing addiction health services research projects. I love that PARCKA and the U offer wonderful mentorship opportunities and look forward to taking advantage of those. I wouldn't be totally honest if I didn't say the mountains were a big draw.

GIN: What are some of your goals for your postdoc fellowship?

My postdoc goals include expanding my interests into new areas of substance abuse research, building on advanced epidemiologic and evaluation methods that I have used in previous work, gaining experience with clinical trials research, and developing a grant proposal. I am excited to be a part of the Healthy Living Study team and contribute the success of that research project. And, of course, enjoy all that SLC has to offer.

GIN: If you could only describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

creative, conscientious, curious