Annual Conference

The Rural Drug Addiction Research and Translation Symposium

November 1 & 2, 2019

No single field of knowledge can hold the keys to solving the addiction crisis that we face. The Rural Drug Addiction Research (RDAR) Center seeks to advance our understanding of drug addiction by linking pre-clinical studies to field-based behavioral, neural, social, and clinical research.

In addition to our research partners, we are also committed to working within communities, and reaching out to the professionals directly involved with rural drug addiction – medical, mental health, treatment and recovery, law enforcement and public policy – to learn from your knowledge and experience.

Center-sponsored projects will range from the microscopic world of the synapse in human biology to the social and geographical environments in which drug use interventions take place, exploring rural drug addiction from synapse to society.



Friday, November 1 Wick Alumni Hall
Arrival and Registration — Wick Alumni Center 3-4pm
Keynote #1: Tamara Phillips-Richards 4-5:30pm
Dinner at Morrill Hall in Elephant Room
645 North 14th Street

Saturday, November 2 Wick Alumni Hall
Breakfast Buffet: Spinach, mushroom and feta frittata, fresh fruit, blueberry buttermilk loaf bread
service with water, coffee and/or orange juice
Keynote #2: Lane Strathearn 9-10:30am
Break: Water, coffee and/or orange juice 10:30-10:45am
Panel Discussion on Rural Health: Christine Chasek, Dennis McChargue, Tammy Stevenson, Felicia Quintana-Zinn 10:45-12:15pm
Lunch Buffet: Greek Wraps(vegetarian), Ham/Swiss/Apple Wraps or Pecan Blue Wraps
served with Kettle Chips, Lemon Parmesan Tortellini Pasta Salad and Asian Slaw
Keynote Speaker #3: Hannah Cooper 1-2:30pm
Afternoon Break: Warm Cookies will be served 2:30-2:45pm
Panel Discussion and Q/A: Public Policy 2:45-4:15pm
Closing Remarks: Kirk Dombrowski, Center Director 4:15-4:30pm

Keynote Speakers

Photo of Tamara Phillips Richards
Tamara Phillips Richards

Tamara Phillips Richards (OHSU)

Dr. Tamara Phillips received her PhD from the State University of New York in Albany and is Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University and Senior Research Career Scientist at the VA Portland Health Care System in Portland, Oregon. She is the Director of the NIAAA-funded Portland Alcohol Research Center and current President of the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism (ISBRA). Her current research focusses on the genetic dissection of behavioral traits associated with risk for the development of alcohol and drug use disorders. Through single gene and gene network analyses, the ultimate goal is to identify druggable targets for innovative and effective therapeutics. Genetic animal models provide a means to study genetic underpinnings of risk and protection from addiction. Dr. Phillips’ training in behavioral genetics has supported development and leveraging of multiple genetic animal models, including selected lines, congenic strains, recombinant inbred strains, knockout and knock-in mice. These tools have been used to comprehensively investigate multiple addiction-related phenotypes and their underlying genetics, using behavioral and molecular methods. Her most recent collaborative project identified the trace amine-associated receptor 1 gene (Taar1) as a regulator of methamphetamine intake that accounts for 60% of the genetic variance in this trait in mice. She is currently a member of a group of investigators who are performing research to determine whether polymorphisms in the human TAAR1 gene impact risk for methamphetamine addiction.

Lane Strathern

Lane Strathern (Iowa)

Dr Strathearn is Professor of Pediatrics and the Division Director for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Iowa, as well as Physician Director of the Center for Disabilities and Development at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital. He holds the William E. Bell/Gail A. McGuiness Endowed Chair for Pediatric Neurodevelopment. He is the Director of the Attachment and Neurodevelopment Lab, and his research and clinical work focuses on the neurobiology of mother-infant attachment, and neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism. This includes a longitudinal study of women and their infants, examining maternal brain and hormone responses to infant facial expressions using functional MRI. His work explores the development of attachment behavior, and how drugs of abuse may highjack these relationships. He is also studying the long-term effects of child maltreatment on cognitive and emotional development, and early childhood factors that may help to protect against abuse or neglect. His research has drawn upon the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP) birth cohort of over 8000 mothers and children who have been followed over 20 years. His most recent research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health examines maternal brain responses of drug-addicted mothers, and the potential role of intranasal oxytocin to enhance parental caregiving.

Hannah Cooper

Hannah Cooper (Emory)

Cooper is a professor and vice chair in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at Rollins, co-director of the Prevention Science Core at the Emory Center for AIDS Research and director of Rollins’ Socio-Contextual Determinants of Health certificate program. Cooper’s research primarily focuses on social determinants of HIV-related outcomes, particularly among people who use drugs. She currently leads five NIH-funded studies on these topics—including the CARE2HOPE project, which studies substance misuse and related harms among people who inject opioids in rural Kentucky. Her work has been cited in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States and has been published in numerous preeminent journals including the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of Urban Health and Social Science & Medicine.


Rural Health Panel

Tammy Stevenson, Executive Director, The Bridge Behavioral Health — The Bridge provides a full range of substance use recovery services including residential and outpatient treatment, medical withdrawal and protective custody. Prior to joining The Bridge, Stevenson was project coordinator for a U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs grant at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She also formerly served on the board of The Bridge.

Christine Chasek, LIMHP, LADC — Dr. Chasek is an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska-Kearney in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology and is the Director of the Behavioral Healthcare Center of Nebraska-Kearney. Dr. Chasek is a practicing mental health and addictions counselor. She also serves on the Nebraska Alcohol and Drug Licensing Board and is President of the International Association of Addiction and Offender Counselors.

Dennis E. McChargue Associate Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln — Dennis runs the B-Smart lab at UNL. B-Smart members are interested in the psychological and biological mechanisms that explain substance use behaviors in a variety of populations as well as the related harm that results from substance use. They are interested in applying their findings to improve interventions for reducing harm or treating substance use disorders.

Felicia Quintana-Zinn, Drug Overdose Epidemiologist, State of Nebraska — Felicia works at the Division of Public Health at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. She provides drug overdose surveillance for the department and state. She works on projects including the Nebraska Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, naloxone awareness and access efforts, the Nebraska Pain Management Guidance document efforts, and data access/improvement initiatives.

Policy Panel

Alëna A. Balasanova, M.D., FAPA, University of Nebraska Medical Center — Dr. Balasanova is a board-certified psychiatrist with subspecialty board certification in Addiction Medicine. Her clinical expertise lies in integrated treatment for co-occurring psychiatric and substance use disorders. She is also an active member of the Education and Public Policy Committees of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry. Clinically, Dr. Balasanova directs Nebraska Medicine's Addiction Services Outpatient Clinic.

Joe Caldwell, HIV & Substance Use Coordinator, State of Iowa — Joe works at the Iowa Department of Public Health. An Iowa native, Joe worked at HIPS in Washington, D.C. supporting outreach and participant care services and at the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) providing assistance to state health departments addressing the HIV and hepatitis C epidemics. Joe is Iowa’s first Harm Reduction Services Coordinator and is committed to creating accountable and sustainable harm reduction service support in the state’s existing healthcare infrastructure.

Kate Speck Senior Research Manager University of Nebraska Public Policy Center — Kate is a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor (LADC) as well as a certified Master Addiction Counselor through the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Counselors (NAADAC). Kate is also involved within the community: Advocate for Women involved with Child Protective Services Volunteer, LMEP Young Families Program Justice Behavioral Health Education Committee.

Theresa Barron-McKeagney, University of Nebraska-Omaha — Theresa is an Associate Dean and Professor at the College of Public Affairs and Community Service at UNO. She teaches classes in Social Welfare Policy, Institutional Oppression, and Social Welfare Planning. She serves on many Omaha area boards, including, The Nebraska Families Collaborative, The Iowa West Foundation (Executive Committee-Secretary/Treasurer), Alegent Creighton Health Foundation, Mercy Hospital Charitable Council-Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the Douglas County Re-entry Council.


Wick Alumni Center UNL

1520 R St, Lincoln, NE 68508


Cost to Attend: $75

Cost to Attend (students): $40

Price includes dinner at Morrill Hall