Dr. Sara Becker Receives Prestigious NIDA MERIT Award

Associate Professor, Sara Becker, Ph.D., receives prestigious NIDA MERIT award as the 9th recipient of an NIH merit award, the second health services researcher, the first implementation scientist, and the first woman to win this award at Brown University since the program was started in 1986. 

On September 16, 2021, Sara Becker, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences within the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, was selected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to receive a prestigious Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) award for her new grant R01DA052918-01, entitled “Improving Outcomes of Adolescents in Residential Substance use Treatment via a Technology-Assisted Parenting Intervention”. This award will evaluate a technology assisted parenting intervention called Parent Substance Misuse among Adolescents in Residential Treatment (SMART) versus treatment as usual for parents whose adolescents were recently discharged from residential substance use treatment. Brown University co-investigators on this award include: Sarah Helseth, Ph.D., Tim Janssen, Ph.D., and Tony Spirito, Ph.D. 

Approval for the MERIT award is based on recommendations by NIDA program staff, endorsement by the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, and selection by the NIDA Director. The MERIT program comprises an initial MERIT award of 5 years and the opportunity for a MERIT award extension of an additional 5 years. The objective of the MERIT program is to provide long-term, stable support to investigators whose research competence and productivity are distinctly superior and who are likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner. NIDA expects that the provision of long term, stable support will foster continued creativity and lessen the administrative burdens associated with preparation and submission of regular research grant applications.  

As a result of the MERIT award, Dr. Becker's grant has been changed from a 5-year R01 to a 10-year R37 mechanism. Dr. Becker is the 9th recipient of an NIH merit award at Brown University since the program was started in 1986. She is the second health services researcher, the first implementation scientist, and the first woman to win this award at Brown University. 

In addition to the prestigious MERIT award, Dr. Becker is Principal Investigator or Multiple Principal Investigator on an R01 from NIDA exploring implementation of contingency management in opioid treatment programs (MPI: Bryan Garner, Ph.D.), an NIAAA R01 implementing Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), and an NIAAA P01 (MPI: Caroline Kuo, Ph.D.) award focused on scaling up and evaluating training in SBIRT and ongoing consultation to enhance integrated alcohol and HIV intervention in South Africa. Dr. Becker also serves as the Director of the New England Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC), a SAMHSA funded center focused on providing training and technical assistance to the addiction and recovery workforce in New England.

Dr. Becker’s impact extends far beyond the implementation science field through her incredible mentorship and service to the field. In the past year alone, Dr. Becker has received the Mentor/Mentee Spotlight from the National Institute on Drug Abuse Summer Internship Program; the Excellence in Research Collaboration Award from the Brown University School of Public Health; and the Distinguished and Early Career Research Achievement Award Reviewer, Life Sciences and Public Health, Brown University.

As the recipient of the MERIT award, Dr. Becker is looking forward to furthering her contributions to the field of implementation science.