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QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER 
Welcome to the Spring 2021 Newsletter!
 

With almost 70% of Massachusetts's eligible population fully vaccinated, the light at the end of the tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to shine a little bit brighter. However, the past year and a half has highlighted many disparities that plague our country, including, but not limited to, racial and economic inequalities that will persist even when rates of COVID-19 decline. The disproportionate effects of COVID-19 and ongoing injustice against the BIPOC community highlights the substantial amount of work that remains for our country.

Over the past 15 months, we have also observed an increase in racially motivated hatred and attacks on Asian American and Pacific Island communities, and, consequently, detrimental effects on mental health. We are proud to highlight the American Psychiatric Association TV video, “Asian-American Mental Health During COVID-19”, featuring an outstanding member of our department.

The DCRP stands against racism and works to be an actively antiracist workplace. Mass General Brigham held the 5th Annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit featuring various academic speakers and writers. Several members of the DCRP attended the summit to better educate ourselves on the impact of systematic racism and how to work apply this learning, as mental health professionals, toward the promotion of quality mental health care for historically marginalized populations. One speaker, Isabel Wilkerson, described the following metaphor: the enduring racial injustice in America is like a broken-down house. We are the homeowners who inherited the house, which performs many basic functions well but has harmful imperfections. We have made some patches to the house we did not build, but many problems remain. The problems will not fix themselves, and it is now our responsibility to do all we can to repair and replace what is broken. After an inspiring, energizing, and thought-provoking summit, members of the DCRP came together to reflect on the ideas that were shared and to brainstorm on ways for the DCRP to continue to improve access to mental health care for minority populations.

We recognize the toll that the past year and a half has taken on the mental health of many individuals throughout our country. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please seek out assistance. The resources below are available to help you.

Mental Health During Covid-19: https://www.massgeneral.org/psychiatry/guide-to-mental-health-resources

Black Mental Wellness: https://www.blackmentalwellness.com/behavioral-strategies

Asian American Racism and Mental Health Resources: https://www.mghstudentwellness.org/racism

LGBTQI | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/LGBTQI

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Meet the Staff
The background may be different, but virtual DCRP weekly meetings continue to be a stimulating and supportive space for all members of our group!
 
Cristina Cusin, M.D. 
Director of Translational Studies in Depression

The DCRP is proud to highlight one of our staff psychiatrists, Dr. Cristina Cusin. Dr. Cusin is the Director of Translational Studies in Depression at MGH and is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is the Director of the MGH Intravenous Ketamine Clinic for Depression and Principal Investigator of several research studies on ketamine for treatment-resistant depression. Dr. Cusin has specific expertise in psychopharmacology and device-based therapies, including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). 

Q&A with Dr. Cusin

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?
A: I wanted to be a crazy scientist, like you see in kids' movies, and I didn’t know if there was a path for that. So, the next best option seemed to be becoming a doctor.

Q: Where is your favorite place to travel?
A: I have two, one with kids and one without. With the kids I like to go to Club Med in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. The child care is excellent and it’s close to Boston, so you don’t get too much of the “are we there yet? Are we there yet?” If I’m going without kids, the Maldives Islands. If you like scuba diving and snorkeling, they’re great but from US it's a long trip. 

Q: How did you get involved in Ketamine treatment?
A: In 2011, I was working in the ECT service here at MGH, and I started to have a lot of patients not responding to ECT.  There’s not much left to try after ECT because it is considered the most potent form of treatment for depression. So, when research started coming out about the efficacy of ketamine, I started being hopeful about the possibility of having a new approach for treatment resistant depression and I decided to pursue it. 

Q: What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend or time off?
A: My favorite activity is probably going to the lake, to walk around and enjoy some quiet time. Of course, with kids around, quiet time is not really an option..

Q: If you could share a meal with any individual, living or dead, who would it be?
A: I’m really interested in historical figures, like Alexander the Great and I would ask what drove him to try to conquer most of the known world back then. It would be interesting to know what can drive people to do that. I’m also curious about the human spirit and would also like to sit down with ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle.

Latisha Cartwright
Resource Specialist

“As the Resource Specialist at the DCRP and the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders and Complicated Grief Program (CATSD), I view myself as a liaison between providers and their patients.  My goal is to administratively support our clinicians so that they, in turn, can better accommodate the mental health needs of their patients.  

In my multi-faceted role, I am primarily responsible for identifying and facilitating referrals for psychotherapy or other specialty treatment, as well as higher levels of care (e.g., intensive outpatient programs, inpatient hospitalization), for our current patients who require additional assistance for their mental health disorders – a challenge that has been amplified by heightened mental health challenges observed throughout the pandemic. I am currently building collaborative relationships with community resources to facilitate comprehensive and long-term care for our patients, many of whom receive highly specialized and time-limited care within our department. 
 
Since stepping into the Resource Specialist position in January, I have prioritized time management and setting realistic expectations on a daily basis, which have been instrumental in my success. I find remarkable joy in my role, not only from the incredibly thankful patients, but also from the support of my mentors and colleagues. Over these past six months, I’ve had the honor to be included in such interesting conversations about new research concerning psychiatric care and how we can use that information to better treat our patients. I’ve been so inspired by the dedication of the clinicians in providing the very best care to their patients. I’m thoroughly impressed and truly excited about the future of our clinical and research programs.”
Research Spotlight
Joshua Curtiss, Ph.D.
Recipient of the Kaplen Fellowship on Depression
 
Dr. Joshua Curtiss is a post-doctoral fellow in the DCRP and OCD programs at MGH and he will join us full-time at the DCRP in July. He completed his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Boston University. Dr. Curtiss’ research interests pertain to leveraging state-of-the-art statistical approaches to address questions relating to the nosology and treatment of emotional disorders. Additionally, he is interested in emotion regulation and mindfulness research. 
Dr. Curtiss was awarded the highly competitive Harvard Medical School 2021 Kaplen Fellowship on Depression for his project entitled, “Optimizing precision medicine in depression treatment: A machine learning approach”.  Dr. Curtiss' project will utilize the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) Study database, which examined effectiveness of depression treatments across four levels in the largest and longest study ever conducted to evaluate depression treatments. Using a machine learning approach, the study aims to identify a series of algorithms with the goal of improving prediction accuracy of remission in response to second-step treatments. The development of a computationally rigorous precision medicine approach to guide second-step depression treatment using machine learning will have significant public health implications, including ameliorating burden and expediting the process of receiving appropriate second-step care.  
DCRP Research Presentations
Outcomes of Long Term Intravenous Ketamine Maintenance at an Academic Center: Successes and Challenges
Anxiety and Depression Association of America 2021 Virtual Conference (April)
Cristina Cusin, MD
 
Mentalizing Therapy Promotes Connectedness to Nature and Reduces Depression
Harvard Psychiatry Research Day (April 2021)
Ashley Meyer, BA
 
 
PET Neuroimaging Study Assessing Gender Differences in Neurobiological Mechanisms Underlying The Placebo Response in Major Depressive Disorder
Harvard Psychiatry Research Day (April 2021)
Aava Jahan, BS
 
Emily Tan, who joined us as a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) in June 2020, has assumed the role of Program Coordinator at the DCRP. Emily brings to this position outstanding experience, skill, and enthusiasm, and we are thrilled to have her with us for another year.

Additionally, we’d like to welcome our new first-year CRCs: Sunday Hull, Charlotte Lynskey, Anika Dalvie, Julianne Origlio, Chloe Chang Sorensen, and Saira Madarasmi.
Learn More About Our Team!
Research Opportunities

Explore research studies that are actively recruiting participants!
If you are interested, please contact us to find out if the study would be a good fit for you.
Sensors-Based Characterization
of Depression

This study aims to use wearable and mobile-based sensors to monitor physiological signals, vocal characteristics, sleep patterns, activity, location and phone usage in study patients with depression who are receiving psychiatric treatment.
(617) 724-2936
Find Out If You Qualify!
Do you have Medicare and are struggling to find a depression treatment that works?
The RECOVER study was designed in partnership with many of the nation's top experts in treatment-resistant depression, and approved by Medicare, to provide additional evidence of the benefit of Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Therapy.
(617) 724-7244 
Find Out If You Qualify!
CBT for Depression in Patients
with TBI
Investigates an adapted form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a common form of talk therapy, for adults who are experiencing depression after sustaining a moderate to severe Traumatic Brain Injury. 
(617) 724-3222
Find Out If You Qualify!
Neurobiological Underpinnings of Placebo Response in Depression
You may be eligible to participate in a research study at Massachusetts General Hospital. We are studying similarities in brain chemistry of people with depression who get better while taking an FDA-approved antidepressant medication and those people who get better taking a placebo. 
(617) 643-2497
Find Out If You Qualify!
Stay Connected!
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Emergency Resources

If you or someone you know are thinking of suicide, seek help immediately. You can visit your local emergency room or contact one of the following hotlines:

  • Boston Emergency Services Team: 800-981-4357
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK)
  • Good Samaritan’s Hotline: 877-870-4673 (877-870-HOPE)
  • Treatment Advocacy Center: 800-784-2433 (800-Suicide)
  • The Trevor Helpline: 866-488-7386 (866-4-U-Trevor) for LGBT youth and young adults
The Depression Clinical and Research Program
at the Massachusetts General Hospital
One Bowdoin Square, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02114 

Information on participating in a research study: 877-552-5837.
Contact the clinical program: 617-726-8895.

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Depression Clinical and Research Program at MGH · 1 Bowdoin St · Boston, MA 02114-4201 · USA

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