Shanna Babalonis, Ph.D.
Dr. Babalonis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science and Center on Drug and Alcohol Research. She has conducted several controlled studies examining the effects of cannabis and medical cannabinoids in the human laboratory. She has three active NIH grants to examine cannabis-opioid interactions, cannabis effects in those with opioid use disorder and the effects of cannabis on simulated driving performance. Along with Dr. Walsh, she wrote an updated report for the World Health Organization on cannabidiol (CBD) and presented the findings to the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence in Geneva, Switzerland. She is the Scientist Representative on the Council for Governmental Relations Hemp and Cannabis Group and serves on the Program Committee for the International Cannabinoid Research Society. She is also a consulting editor for the scientific journal, Cannabis. Dr. Babalonis provides physician education through Grand Rounds and lectures to physicians in the state on the risks and benefits of medical cannabis and has also given numerous presentations to residents, medical/dental students and the public on cannabis-related topics. She is increasingly recognized as a leader in the cannabis field and an expert on the topic of medical cannabinoids.
Sharon Walsh, Ph.D
Dr. Walsh is a Professor of Behavioral Science, Pharmacology, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Psychiatry in the University of Kentucky Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, director of the UK Center on Drug and Alcohol Research and director of the Substance Use Priority Research Center. She has been conducting clinical research on substance use disorders for nearly 30 years with a special emphasis on opioid use disorder and its treatment. Her research program has been continuously funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dr. Walsh is the principal investigator of the $87 million grant for NIH’s HEALing Communities study. She has served as an advisor and reviewer for numerous agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Veteran’s Administration and the World Health Organization.
Laura Fanucchi, M.D.
Dr. Fanucchi is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine and is the Director of the UK Addiction Consult and Education Service. She provides treatment for opioid use disorder in the UK Bluegrass Care Clinic and in the UK First Bridge Clinic. She conducts clinical research on the integration of evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder in general medical settings. Dr. Fanucchi is currently PI of a NIDA-funded R01 clinical trial evaluating an innovative outpatient treatment model for opioid use disorder and severe, injection-related infections. She is also a co-investigator on several studies, including those evaluating cannabis and opioid drug interactions, providing expert clinical guidance and participant safety monitoring.
Danelle Stevens-Watkins, Ph.D.
Dr. Stevens-Watkins is a licensed psychologist in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Professor of Counseling Psychology and Associate Vice President for Research (Diversity and Inclusion). She is a core faculty member of the Center for Health Equity Transformation and a faculty affiliate of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Research. Broadly, her research focuses on health disparities and barriers to service utilization among Black American populations. Dr. Stevens-Watkins has a over decade of funding from NIDA as PI or Co-I. Her projects have focused on criminality, drug use, and HIV risk among African American women. She completed an NIH (K08) Mentored Career Development Award with a research emphasis on mental health drug use and HIV risk behaviors among Black male prisoners. She currently has an NIH R01 from NIDA titled: Research Examining Factors Associated with the Opioid Crisis among Under-served African Americans (REFOCUS). Dr. Stevens-Watkins is also a MPI on a NIMHD grant collaboration with Morehouse School of Medicine focused on increasing PrEP uptake among Black women at high risk for HIV. In addition, she is an MPI on a NIGMS R25 collaboration with Vanderbilt designed to enhance Faculty of Color success at PWIs.
Joseph Chappell, Ph.D.
Dr. Chappell is Professor and Chair of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy. Dr. Chappell is an acclaimed natural product scientist and has developed UK’s expertise in plant derived drug candidates. Dr. Chappell’s research has been dedicated to studying all facets of isoprenoid (terpene) metabolism in plants and microbes – from the identification of the genes encoding for and regulating this metabolism to defining the biochemical mechanisms of the enzymes themselves. His team’s goal is to develop new plant-based therapeutic agents by manipulating the genes and enzymes associated with the biosynthesis of putative therapeutic compounds in dietary supplements and medicinal plants. Dr. Chappell has been involved in commercializing intellectual property discovered in his lab, including the development of several start-up enterprises in Kentucky.
Joshua Lile, Ph.D.
Dr. Lile is a Professor of Behavioral Science in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, with appointments in Psychiatry and Psychology. Dr. Lile’s research focuses on the neurobehavioral basis of substance use disorders and the development of interventions using translational methods and technologies. Dr. Lile established an independent program of clinical research on cannabis use disorder, supported by NIDA K01, K02 and R01 awards. This research aims to determine neuropharmacological mechanisms of the abuse-related effects of cannabis to identify targets for medications development, and then evaluate the effects of promising compounds on cannabis use decisions. Dr. Lile is an internationally recognized expert on the behavioral pharmacology of abused substances, with an emphasis on cannabis. Dr. Lile is also a core course director and instructor for the Behavioral Science department’s Clinical and Translational Science graduate program, an active mentor and has been a member of the UK Institutional Review Board for over 10 years.
James Matthews, Ph.D.
Dr. Matthews is a Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. His program of research in nutritional physiology has focused on the molecular study and characterization of nutrient transporters, and enzymes that either produce or metabolize transporter substrates. Because of their importance in nutrient assimilation and use, he has studied tissue-, age-, diet-, metabolic acidosis-, and ergot alkaloid-dependent expression and activity of these proteins in ruminants. Based on findings from these commercially relevant experimental models, his current research interests and efforts have focused on identifying if and how the energy and/or nitrogen status of cells regulates/coordinates the expression and function of amino acid enzyme/transporter “functional units”. Dr. Matthews’ current research foci are (1) to identify the mechanisms by which different forms of selenium in free-choice vitamin-mineral mixes ameliorate the negative effects of fescue toxicosis on growth and fertility of cattle, and (2) to discover how the expression and function of amino acid transporters and metabolizing enzymes are coordinated to support the development and finishing of cattle and pigs.
Linda Dwoskin, Ph.D.
Dr. Dwoskin is an Endowed Professor in Pharmaceutical Education at the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Pharmacy and serves as Senior Associate Vice President for Research at the University. She also holds academic appointments in the Department of Behavioral Science and the Center on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Her research has resulted in over 259 peer-reviewed research articles, with an H-index of 47. She also is an inventor on 24 issued patents emanating from her research at UK. In 2022, Dr. Dwoskin received the Innovator Award, a national Award for Excellence from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. Dr. Dwoskin has served as the Director/PI of a National Cooperative Drug Discovery Group (U19 grant) aimed at discovering new treatments for nicotine use disorder (2003-2009) and a Grand Opportunity for Medications Development Cooperative U01 grant focused on the discovery of novel therapies for methamphetamine use disorder (2000-2021). She currently serves as Director of an NIH-funded Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) grant entitled “Kentucky Network for Innovation & Commercialization (KYNETIC)” in partnership with the State of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and all 16 regional public universities and community technical colleges in Kentucky. KYNETIC is focused on nurturing academic innovators and innovations (agnostic to disease) from all public academic institutions in Kentucky by providing funding for pilot grants, mentoring, education, and a network of relevant expertise to translate academic discoveries to commercialization. Dr. Dwoskin was co-founder and Vice President of Yaupon Therapeutics - Ceptaris Inc., a biotech start-up, which was acquired by Actelion Inc. following the FDA approval of Valchlor®/Ledaga®, a treatment for Stage 1A and 1B mycosis fungoides-type cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, which is currently on the market in the USA and in more than 10 countries around the world. Recently, Dr. Dwoskin co-founded a new biotech company, MUDRx, which is focused on developing an efficacious treatment for methamphetamine use disorder, as an outcome of her NIH-funded drug discovery research.
Patricia Freeman, RPh, PhD, FAPhA
Dr. Freeman is the Earl Platt Slone Endowed Professor in Pharmacy Practice and Science at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy. She is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Practice and a University Research Professor. Her research interests are focused on substance use policy and the role pharmacists play as partners in improving public health and reducing harm from substance use. Currently, her work is centered on the impact of policies designed to increase access to the opioid overdose reversal agent naloxone. Other recent activities include evaluating prescription drug monitoring programs and their impact and effectiveness at preventing prescription drug abuse and diversion. As a faculty affiliate of UK’s Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, Dr. Freeman leads the HEALing Communities Study Prevention Team and pharmacy-based interventions designed to reduce the supply of excess opioids through increased disposal of unused medications, identify and reduce risky prescribing and dispensing behaviors among prescribers and pharmacists, and promote increased use of naloxone.
Michelle Lofwall, M.D.
Dr. Lofwall is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science and the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research in the UK College of Medicine. She is the Bell Alcohol and Addictions Chair and the Medical Director of the Straus Clinic and the First Bridge Clinic which provide rapid access to comprehensive opioid use disorder treatment for patients with serious health complications. Dr. Lofwall is the one of the lead investigators the HEALing Communities Study and serves on the opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment team that works to increase patient entry and retention in evidence-based care through community providers. She supervises treatment implementation, data collection, and evaluation and is also a member of the physician education team, responsible for providing DATA-2000 waiver trainings and overseeing curriculum development and delivery of the weekly didactics with community partners. Her research has been nationally recognized and focused on improving treatment of OUD. She served as an expert author on SAMHSA’s Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP 63) for Medication Treatment of OUD and helped lead SAMHSA’s development of a substance use disorder 101 core curriculum for healthcare providers. She is a past board member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, has been an invited speaker to the National Academy of Medicine, has received numerous teaching and mentorship awards and is the recipient of the 2022 Marie Nyswander/Dole Award from the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence.
Peter Akpunonu, M.D.
Dr. Akpunonu is an Associate Professor in Emergency Medicine and is the Director of Medical Toxicology and of Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine at the University of Kentucky HealthCare. Additionally, he is also the Medical Director of the Kentucky Poison Control Center of Norton Children's Hospital. The creator of the first and only inpatient toxicology consultation service in the state, Dr. Akpunonu specializes in the recognition, triage, and management of poisonings at the University of Kentucky HealthCare. Holding a deep interest area of environmental exposures, novel psychoactive substances of abuse, envenomation, and prescriber patterns. As the Director of Undersea & Hyperbaric Medicine, he oversees the treatment of patients suffering from arterial gas embolism, carbon monoxide poisoning, dysbarism, and those in need of further wound care. Dr. Akpunonu has lectured and presented research at multiple National and International conferences.
Susanne Arnold, M.D.
Dr. Arnold is a Professor of Medical Oncology, Associate Director of Clinical Translation in Markey Cancer Center and holds the Buck-Kentucky Chair in Lung Cancer Research UK. Dr. Arnold’s major research interests are in experimental therapeutics and clinical and translational studies of lung and head and neck cancers, as well as population-based cancer research in environmental carcinogens and precision medicine. She has over 23 years of experience as a medical oncologist and clinical researcher, having written and conducted over 16 investigator-initiated clinical trials in lung and head and neck cancer. She serves on the National Cancer Institute’s Investigation Drug Steering Committee and has authored 127 original manuscripts and trained over 35 fellows in medical oncology. She oversees the clinical research endeavors of the Markey Cancer Center and assists other investigators with the development of investigator-initiated clinical trials. Throughout her career, Dr. Arnold has also collaborated with other clinicians, epidemiologists, behavior and basic scientists, utilizing cancer registry data and accumulated field research in rural Appalachia to study populations at high risk of developing lung cancer.
William Stoops, Ph.D.
Dr. Stoops is a Professor in the Departments of Behavioral Science, Psychiatry and Psychology and a faculty member of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Research at the University of Kentucky. He is the Associate Director for Clinical Research of the UK Substance Use Priority Research Area and Director of the UK Clinical Research Support Office. Dr. Stoops’ research uses human laboratory and clinical trial methods to understand the behavioral and pharmacological factors contributing to substance use disorder, focusing mainly on cocaine use disorder. Dr. Stoops has extensive experience in conducting human abuse liability studies across a wide range of drug classes. He has over 20 years of experience as a PI on numerous grants and a wealth of experience monitoring the safety of human laboratory studies and clinical trials. Dr. Stoops’ research has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Cancer Institute.