NYU Silver Faculty Receive Competitive University Research Grants

Four NYU Silver faculty members have received competitive grants from NYU’s University Research Challenge Fund (URCF): Professor and Associate Dean of Research Marya Gwadz for her grant entitled “Addressing Serious Barriers to HIV Viral Suppression in Populations At-Risk: New Methods, New Directions”; Professor Linda Mills and Research Associate Professor Briana Barocas, the Executive Director and Director of Research respectively of the Center on Violence and Recovery, for “Restorative Justice for Domestic Violence Crimes: A Study of The Implementation of Circles of Peace in Vermont”; and Professor Qingwen Xu for “The Resilience of Chinese Communities in New York City: Where Immigrants Age.”

Dr. Gwadz, who has been studying obstacles to sustained viral suppression among people living with HIV (PLWH) for more than decade, sought URCF funding to pursue a new area of research to address these persistent and complex barriers. With significant NIH support, she and her interdisciplinary research team at NYU have developed, studied, and refined a culturally appropriate, multi-component counseling intervention, known as Heart to Heart (HTH), to foster engagement along the HIV care continuum among PLWH with the greatest barriers to viral suppression. With the URCF funding, her team will use an innovative research framework known as SMART (sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial) to develop an adaptive intervention to increase viral suppression for the target population. Dr. Gwadz explained that adaptive interventions allow providers to modify, augment, or switch the type of treatment an individual receives based on the individual’s response to their treatment and a series of decision rules. Her pilot study will randomize participants to receive either a variation of the HTH counseling approach or Conditional Economic Incentives (CEI), based on principles of behavioral economics, as first-line interventions. Depending on how they respond, participants will be randomized to stop, taper, augment, or switch their treatments. The pilot study will result in two pilot-tested and refined interventions and pilot data to inform a larger SMART study for submission to the NIH.

Drs. Mills and Barocas’ new project builds on promising results they have seen in studies of the Circles of Peace (CP) model, which uses restorative justice principles to treat Domestic Violence (DV). Most states mandate those convicted of DV crimes to Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs), which are based on a nearly 40-year-old model and have a weak evidence base. Recently, some states including Arizona and Utah, have allowed other DV treatment approaches as alternatives or supplements to BIPs, with promising results. Inspired by two influential studies by Barocas and Mills, Windsor County, Vermont, at the request of the State’s Attorney, has modified and adapted the CP model for their community and is embarking on a one-year pilot program. Barocas and Mills’ URCF grant will fund a qualitative study of the adaption and implementation of the CP model in that jurisdiction as well as the collection of preliminary data on program participants’ outcomes. They intend to use the results of this pilot study to inform a multi-state, interdisciplinary study of the CP model for which they will seek state and/or federal support.

Dr. Xu’s project will examine the community resilience of older Chinese immigrants in New York City, more than a quarter of whom live below the poverty line and most of whom have limited English proficiency and face age-related physical, cognitive, and social declines. Dr. Xu explained “community resilience emphasizes inherent capacities of a community and the need for collective, systemic adaptation to reduce underlying vulnerabilities and to promote positive health and wellbeing outcomes,” Over the next year, she and NYU Silver visiting professor Dr. Yu Xie will conduct a qualitative study of older Chinese immigrants in New York City's three Chinatowns as well as a small number of key informants from immigrant-serving organizations in those neighborhoods and immigrant-sending communities in China’s Guangdong and Fujian provinces to gain an understanding of the challenges and opportunities for older Chinese immigrants, their families, and communities. The findings will inform prospective community strategies and government funding and program priorities to cultivate community resilience.

NYU’s URCF supports faculty-initiated research on a competitive basis and is administered by and advisory committee composed of senior faculty reflecting a cross-section of disciplines at the University. The Fund aims to encourage investigators to explore new areas of research that are likely to attract outside support, and support faculty engaging in productive scholarship in areas where there are few sources of support.