The unique translational and highly collaborative environment at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) has afforded me outstanding opportunities as an MD/PhD student. As a student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Program, I conduct my research in the laboratory of my mentor Dr. Kathryn Cunningham, director of the Center for Addiction Research. The harmonious environment created by the collaboration between these programs has served as an amazing source of support, mentorship, and growth.
My research is focused on the exploration of novel targets and pharmacotherapeutics for the treatment of substance use disorders, such as opioid or cocaine use disorder. Of particular interest to me is the development of treatments to decrease relapse to opioid or cocaine use. Many factors influence a person’s susceptibility to relapse, including drug cue reactivity, which is the attentional orientation to drug associated stimuli (i.e., drug paraphernalia). By investigating new medications that decrease this drug cue reactivity, we have the potential to discover ways to suppress the likelihood of relapse, which in turn would both improve and save lives.