Humphrey Fellows and NIDA INVEST Postdoctoral Fellows Visit NIDA

2023-2024 Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellows and NIDA INVEST Postdoctoral Fellows at NIDA

On November 29 and 30, 2023, the NIDA International Program invited 11 2023-2024 Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Use and Addiction Research fellows at Virginia Commonwealth University as well as three NIDA INVEST Postdoctoral fellows to an orientation meeting at NIDA, to visit the NIDA facilities and learn more about NIDA’s programs.

The fellows heard from NIDA Deputy Director Dr. Wilson Compton and Dr. Elizabeth Barfield from the Office of Science Policy and Communications (OSPC). They also attended presentations about various NIDA divisions, programs, and initiatives. Dr. Keisher Highsmith from the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research (DESPR) provided an overview of NIDA’s Services Research Branch, and Dr. Ivan Montoya described the activities and priorities of the Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences. Dr. Tisha Wiley and Dr. Julia Zur, also both from DESPR, highlighted two of NIDA’s large initiatives, the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN) and the Harm Reduction Research Network. Dr. Flora Katz from the NIH Fogarty International Center provided information on opportunities offered by the center, and Health Resources and Services Administration representatives, Ms. Alexa Ofori and Ms. Megan Meacham, gave an overview of the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. The fellows also learned from OSPC’s Mr. Brian Marquis about National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week®, a health observance to inspire dialogue about the science of drug use and addiction among youth, educators, health care providers, community partners, and scientists.

The participating fellows greatly appreciated the chance to learn more about NIDA and its programs and to form connections with both other fellows and NIDA staff that may shape not only their fellowship but also their future work after they return to their home countries. According to INVEST Fellow Ilia Nadareishvili (Georgia), “The NIDA Fellows’ Orientation was the best opportunity to see and learn about NIDA International’s work and meet the officials in both formal and informal environments. Activities like these shape our careers and give motivation to double efforts in the work we do. The visit gave me a chance to meet amazing people from across the world. I realized how different we, the NIDA INVEST fellows, are in our backgrounds and work, but how this different work eventually contributes to the common vision and goal.” He particularly enjoyed the opportunity to also meet the Humphrey fellows. “It was even more exciting to learn experiences and stories of Humphrey fellows. We are considering doing work together, and to discuss this and other topics, I did a follow-up visit to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. There, I was kindly invited to join some of the Humphrey fellows’ activities, contributing to my awareness on substance use prevention and recovery initiatives and further strengthening the connection with the fellows.”

Humphrey Fellow of Public Health Policy Ahmed Nawaz (Pakistan) noted the benefits of the meeting to his work, saying, “The NIDA Fellows Orientation Meeting was an invaluable experience that provided me with deep insights about the U.S. health systems, expanded my professional network, and equipped me with essential tools to advance skills to help devise more effective strategies for drug-demand reduction in Pakistan.”

Humphrey Fellow Thinzar Tun (Myanmar) particularly enjoyed learning more about the institute whose resources she has already been using frequently in her work. “During my 20 years of work in the drug addiction field in Myanmar, the first scientific resource that I use whenever I prepare substance use disorder trainings or advocacy for the community is NIDA, since our country has limited resources on substance use. I am honored and humbled to meet with the NIDA and NIH team in person and learn more from you all during the orientation session of my Humphrey fellowship journey. I never thought that I will have that chance in my life—but it did happen!” she said.