Rutgers names inaugural director of addiction research center

Gabrielle Saulsbery//January 18, 2022

Rutgers names inaugural director of addiction research center

Gabrielle Saulsbery//January 18, 2022

Danielle Dick has been appointed inaugural director of the Rutgers Addiction Research Center at the Rutgers Brain Health Institute, the school announced Jan. 18.

Dick, an internationally recognized expert on genetic and environmental influences on human behavior, will be a tenured professor in the department of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

She most recently directed a research institute on behavioral and emotional health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. There, she was the Distinguished Commonwealth Professor of Psychology and Human and Molecular Genetics.

Upon joining Rutgers this month, her responsibilities will include leveraging the multidisciplinary expertise among scientists and clinicians across the universityto advance understanding of, and develop new treatments for, drug addiction.

The RuARC will be the only comprehensive addiction center in New Jersey to integrate approaches including precision medicine research, treatment and care of individuals and families coping with addiction, public policy innovation and reform aimed at preventing drug use and at more effective avenues for individuals with substance use disorders to obtain treatment, according to an announcement on Dick’s appointment.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Dick join us to lead this important initiative,” said Gary Aston-Jones, director of the Brain Health Institute, in a prepared statement. “Addiction is an international health problem that calls for cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary research to understand its biological and psychological causes, and create new approaches for treating patients. Dr. Dick has extensive and broad-based scientific expertise, as well as outstanding leadership skills. She will facilitate cross-fertilization among many different fields of research that will lead to discovery of answers to this long-standing health problem.”

In her research, Dick focuses on characterizing genetic contributions to substance use disorders and applying basic, etiological research findings to inform prevention and intervention. Projects include identifying genes involved in substance use and related behavioral health challenges; characterizing the risk associated with identified genes, across development and in conjunction with the environment; and translating basic research findings into improved prevention and intervention.

She’s led and contributed to more than 20 grants from the National Institutes of Health, with grant funding totaling over $30 million. Her more than 350 published peer-reviewed studies cover areas including child development, addiction, mental health, genetics and human behavior, and has won numerous national and international awards for her work.

Dick’s first book The Child Code: Understanding Your Child’s Unique Nature for Happier, More Effective Parenting was published by Penguin Random House, and she frequently speaks to parents, families, and school groups about the causes of substance use disorders, and how to prevent or address problems in children and family members.