Sterling McPherson
Celestina Barbosa-Leiker

Sterling McPherson, PhD, and Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, PhD, have each been awarded scholarships from UCLA’s Center for Advancing Longitudinal Drug Abuse Research (CALDAR). Both are professors at WSU-College of Nursing.

The grants focus on encouraging the use of advanced statistical methodology in analyzing drug abuse data. McPherson will investigate new ways of modeling missing data in substance use clinical trials.

“Missing data can be problematic for researchers.” McPherson said. “If a person drops out of a clinical trial, often times researchers assume the individual relapsed. This might be the case, but it may not. As a result, it introduces bias, inflates error rates, and produces unstable results. We need to figure out an accurate way to handle missing data.”

McPherson will compare multiple novel methods of missing data treatment. His goal is to provide researchers with recommendations for handling missing data and to identify the best tools to assess treatment effectiveness and recovery during follow up.

Barbosa-Leiker’s grant will evaluate methodology used to measure opiate withdrawal, and identify if tests measure withdrawal equally across different populations and over time.
By testing assumptions that are needed prior to assessing differences and changes in withdrawal, it will help to increase understanding of the role of withdrawal in treatment and recovery.
John Roll, associate dean of research, is pleased that both received a grant. “These grants are extremely competitive and set the stage for larger grants. More importantly, they advance the field of science, improving data-collecting methodologies related to drug abuse.”

The grants are awarded to UCLA by the National Institute of Health and then UCLA selects sub-awardees from a pool of applicants. McPherson and Barbosa-Leiker both have one year to complete their research and report key findings.

Established in 2005 through funding by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) CALDAR supports the development and application of rigorous scientific approaches for advancing longitudinal research on drug abuse and its interplay with HIV infection, drug treatment, and other service systems. Currently, CALDAR is focused on increasing understanding of recovery from substance abuse by offering unique opportunities to empirically investigate patterns and stages of recovery under diverse definitions, factors that facilitate recovery, and potential elements and processes to be considered in establishing a system of continuing care or addiction management.