Making impact: how MSSU inspires emerging researchers in patient-oriented research

Making impact: how MSSU inspires emerging researchers in patient-oriented research

The MSSU is proud to support the next generation of patient-oriented researchers to improve patient health and the health system in the Maritimes. For some trainees, our MSSU Trainee Support Program represents the first time a student has engaged Patient/Public Partners in their research. For others, it is another opportunity to learn more about patient engagement. This fall we celebrate our students and their contributions to patient-oriented research in the Maritimes.

Meet Andy Kim

Andy Kim was a recipient of the former MSSU Student Award in 2021-2022. His project titled “Drunk in Love: Attachment, Coping-motives, and Problem Drinking in Romantic Partners” explored the interplay of attachment styles, relationship conflict, coping-motives, and drinking problems in romantic couples.

With the support of the MSSU, he has gone on to co-author three publications, each helping further understand the relationship between mental health disorders and substance and behavioural addictions.

“He is a truly exceptional student who will bring a valuable set of clinical research and patient-oriented research skills to my Mood, Anxiety and Addictions Comorbidity (MAAC) Lab at Dalhousie,” says his supervisor Dr. Sherry Stewart, an MSSU Scientist and professor of Psychiatry and Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University.

A MSc student in the PhD Clinical Psychology program at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Andy says patient-oriented research in his field (addictions) is of primary importance to his work in graduate school and beyond.

“One consideration in academia is how we can conduct research that has practical implications. Patient-oriented research provides the opportunity to help individuals, community, and society in real ways. I am honored and grateful to be recipient of the MSSU award, and I am eager to continue working on the clinical psychology of addiction through the lens of patient-oriented research.”

His interests in the symptom specificity of anxiety and depression and alcohol use (supported by MSSU, see Kim, Sherry et al., 2022) have sparked a new line of research examining the role of symptoms in and during alcohol hangover. This will involve qualitative interviews of undergraduate drinkers who report experiencing hangover anxiety for representativeness of lived experiences from the target population.

About the research

Do symptoms of depression and anxiety contribute to heavy episodic drinking? A 3-wave longitudinal study of adult community members. Addictive Behaviors, 130, 107295.

This report found that depressive symptoms led to more heavy drinking over time, whereas anxiety symptoms led to less heavy drinking over time. This symptom specificity is a real step forward in understanding the complicated pathway between internalizing symptoms and alcohol misuse; this paper was published in Addictive Behaviors in 2022.

Do pupillary responses during authentic slot machine use reflect arousal or screen luminance fluctuations? A proof-of-concept study. PLOS ONE, 17(7), e0272070.

This paper (published in PLOS ONE) was the first study to examine pupillary changes in the context of modern, authentic slot machine gambling. Slot machines are widely recognized as one of the most harmful and addictive forms of gambling, and pupil diameter changes represent an unobtrusive marker that could shed light on event related physiological responses during this activity.

Depressive symptoms and conflict behaviors: A test of the stress generation hypothesis in romantic couples during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This study (currently in press, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology) used a longitudinal dataset to test the stress generation hypothesis among romantic couples isolating together during the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., do depressed individuals perpetrate more conflict behaviors towards their partner that in turn exacerbates their depression?).

Making impact: how MSSU inspires emerging researchers in patient-oriented research