The University of Arizona Health Sciences Career Development Awards (CDA) program recently selected Allison J. Huff, DHEd, at the College of Medicine – Tucson, as one of its four 2022 recipients. Dr. Huff is assistant professor in Family and Community Medicine and director of the BLAISER and Frontera programs in the Health Sciences Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
“The CDA is the golden opportunity to be able to take my career to the next level,” said Dr. Huff, who also is a member of the Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center (CPAC). “Personally, I was in disbelief. Perhaps a little imposter syndrome, or just a normal response when others believe in you at a time when you’re beginning to wonder about your career trajectory. This award is a game-changer, and I am so grateful to be given the opportunity.”
CDA scholars must complete an independent research project, which is expected to generate sufficient pilot findings to enable the submission of an NIH K-series or R01 grant (or equivalent) by the second year of the program. Each scholar also must choose a lead mentor, or mentors if the project is multidisciplinary.
The award will support Dr. Huff’s human subject clinical trial, which uses a non-invasive neuromodulation technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). The tDCS is applied to trial participants using a patented device with deep learning software, which will measure and reduce pain using electroencephalograph (EEG). Dr. Huff explained that the clinical trial will be a critical step in ensuring the efficacy and feasibility of tDCS for non-pharmacologic treatment of pain and ensuring the commercialization of a safe and effective alternative to opioids to treat pain.
Dr. Huff’s primary mentor will be Todd Vanderah, PhD, interim director of CPAC, co-director of the MD/PhD Dual Degree Program and Pharmacology department head. “I cannot think of anyone better to be my primary mentor than Dr. Vanderah,” she said. “Not only is he brilliant and successful in his research career – especially around pain – but he is also very approachable and down-to-earth. He will be instrumental in helping me develop my skills and move my career forward through the support of this award.”
“Allison is an amazing colleague who successfully manages multiple projects and programs with a focus in helping those who suffer from chronic pain and substance use disorder,” said Dr. Vanderah. “Her engineering and strong background in behavioral health is a perfect fit for transforming developing technology to treat individuals while minimizing unwanted effects. I am excited to work with Dr. Huff and to see these clinical research trial outcomes.”
The CDA program was established by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences in 2014 to provide research training and funding for early-career faculty members and foster academic careers in clinical and translational research. Each year, the four recipients of the two-year award receive 75% protected time for research, plus salary support and funding for research-related activities and travel. The other junior faculty members who were selected for this latest round of awards will be profiled in the coming weeks:
Other recipients of the 2022 CDA are:
- Asmaa AbuMaziad, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the College of Medicine – Tucson
- Matthew Dodson, PhD, assistant research professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy
- Shirin Doroudgar, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the College of Medicine – Phoenix