In May, my co-worker posted the exciting news that the Uniting Couples in the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa (UCAN) project was renewed for another 5 years for the next phase. The projectis a collaborative treatment research study between the UNC Eating Disorders Program and the UNC Department of Psychology and is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. The study compares two comprehensive treatments as couples face the challenges of anorexia nervosa. I am here to report that after much hard work, recruitment for the next phase has started!
Over the past 5 months, Drs. Don Baucom and Cindy Bulik and members of the UNC Eating Disorders team worked diligently in preparation for the study’s launch. As the research coordinator, I can attest to the great effort and thought that was put into the project thus far from the study investigators, clinicians, graduate students, and staff. I am truly thankful to work with such prolific and hard-working individuals. Today, I am excited to tell you more about the project and our wonderful personnel.
Anorexia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening disorder that completely disrupts the lives of those who experience it and of their loved ones. Unfortunately, treatment options for adults with anorexia are limited. Furthermore, researchers have not found a single treatment to be significantly beneficial in treating the disorder in adults. Whereas family-based therapy has shown promise for children and adolescents with anorexia, before the first phase of UCAN, no comparable treatment strategy had been tested as an effective model for treating adults suffering from the disorder. The UCAN study was started in response to this glaring omission. It is a novel approach for including partners in the treatment of adult anorexia. The couple-based program helps patients with anorexia nervosa and their partners address anorexia nervosa symptoms and unique stresses that anorexia nervosa places on the romantic relationship. As part of participation, the individuals with anorexia receive about six months of comprehensive study-related treatment, including visits with therapists, a psychiatrist, and a dietitian. The partners are involved in varying ways and to varying degrees in treatment.
UCAN has a full team of individuals working directly with study participants and behind the scenes to make the study run smoothly and efficiently. This team includes but is not limited to the primary investigators, project coordinator, clinicians, therapy supervisors, study statisticians, and graduate students.
Donald Baucom, PhD is one of the co-primary investigators and a therapy supervisor for the UCAN study. He is the Richard Simpson Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he is also Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Director of the UNC Couple Therapy Clinic. Dr. Baucom is a clinical psychologist and has been conducting research and treating couples with a variety of problems since 1974. He received his BA and PhD from the University of North Carolina. He has conducted more treatment research on couples than any other investigator in the field and has been funded for his treatment research by a number of federal and international agencies for decades. Along with his numerous research publications, he has written and edited seven books about couples and intervening with them in a variety of contexts, including the major texts on cognitive-behavioral couple therapy. Over the past two decades, he has focused his treatment research on developing couple-based interventions for couples in which one partner has psychopathology or health concerns. Along with Dr. Bulik, this includes their treatment research on couples and anorexia nervosa, as well as his treatment research on couples and other disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, osteoarthritis, smoking cessation during pregnancy, and end of life. He conducts workshops throughout the world, training other therapists in how to conduct these interventions, which he has developed and validated. He has won numerous awards for his research contributions, mentoring other professionals, undergraduate teaching, and clinical training and supervision.
Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, FAEDisone of the co-primary investigators and therapy supervisors for UCAN. She is the Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychiatry University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Professor of Nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Director of the UNC Eating Disorders Program. She received her BA from the University of Notre Dame and her MA and PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. She completed internships and post-doctoral fellowships at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, PA. She developed outpatient, partial hospitalization, and inpatient services for eating disorders both in New Zealand and in the United States. Her research includes treatment, laboratory, animal, epidemiological, twin and molecular genetic studies of eating disorders and body weight regulation. She is a past president of the Academy for Eating Disorders, past Vice-President of the Eating Disorders Coalition, and past Associate Editor of the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Dr. Bulik has written over 450 scientific papers and chapters on eating disorders, and is author of the books Eating Disorders: Detection and Treatment, Runaway Eating, Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How To Stop, Abnormal Psychology (Beidel, Bulik, Stanley), The Woman in the Mirror (2011), and Midlife Eating Disorders (2013, Walker).
Jennifer Kirby, PhD is one of the investigators and a therapy supervisor on the project. She is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is Co-Director of the Couple Therapy Clinic at UNC where she also trains and supervises graduate students and mental health professionals in cognitive-behavioral couple therapy. Over the past ten years, Drs. Kirby and Baucom have collaborated in the development and evaluation of a number of relationship intervention programs from a cognitive-behavioral perspective. These have included working with couples who are experiencing emotion dysregulation, health concerns such as breast cancer, extramarital affairs, anorexia nervosa, and couples who are preparing for marriage. Her interest and expertise in training others in couples therapy is enriched by her teaching of doctoral courses in empirically supported treatments for adults, dialectical behavior therapy, and clinical supervision. She also maintains an active private practice with couples and individuals.
Kate Nowlan, BA is the Clinical Research Coordinator for UCAN study. Previously, she worked as a research assistant/ project coordinator in the Psychosocial Research Department at Brown University/ Butler Hospital.
Maria C. La Via, MD will serve as the study psychiatrist on the UCAN project. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also the Medical and Clinical Director for the UNC Eating Disorders Program. Dr. La Via is a board certified adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist and has been treating individuals with eating disorders for 13 years.
Sara Hofmeier, MS, LPC, NCC is one of our individual therapists for UCAN. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor with the Eating Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She coordinates multiple clinical trials and other research projects within the program and also conducts both individual and family therapy in our outpatient clinic.
Brad Mac Neil, PhD is one of UCAN’s couple therapists. Heis an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Eating Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a licensed clinical psychologist with the inpatient and outpatient eating disorders programs.
TJ Raney, PhD will serve as a couple therapist on the UCAN project. He is an Assistant Professor in the Eating Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also a clinical psychologist with the partial hospitalization and outpatient eating disorders programs.
Cristin Runfola, PhDis one of the individual therapists for UCAN. She is a Postdoctoral Fellow and Clinical Psychologist in the Eating Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also conducts individual and group therapy in the eating disorders outpatient clinic and serves as agroup therapist for the Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa (CBT4BN) study.
Jacqueline C. Carter, PhD is one of our UCAN therapy supervisors. She is a Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. Jacqueline received her doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997 and completed her post-doctoral training at the Toronto General Hospital Eating Disorders Program in Toronto, Ontario where she worked as a Staff Psychologist for over 13 years. She has extensive experience treating and conducting research on eating disorders, and she has published extensively in the area.
Millie Maxwell, PhD is one of the therapy supervisors for the UCAN study. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the UNC Eating Disorders Program. Her education includes a post-doctoral fellowship with the UNC Eating Disorders Program, a PhD in counseling from NCSU, an MA in English from NCSU, and a BA in English from Wake Forest University. She also completed a 9 month extramural training program in cognitive therapy with the Beck Institute in PA.
Stephanie Zerwas, PhD is one of the therapy supervisors for the project. She is Associate Research Director in the Eating Disorders Program of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on social cognition, the uniquely human capacity to reflect on thoughts and emotions. She conducts individual, group, and family therapy and is particularly interested in how people process social information in online therapeutic contexts.
Elysse Thebner, MPHwill serve as UCAN’s study dietitian. She received her Masters in Public Health from UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in the Department of Nutrition. She has served as dietetic intern in the Eating Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Elysse previously served as a dietitian for the CBT4BN and NURTURE studies.
Robert Hamer, PhD is UCAN’s primary statistician. Hedesigns, plans, and works on psychopharmacology clinical trials, performing psychiatric research in collaboration with other psychiatry faculty, occasional medical research in other fields with faculty members in other fields, performing research on clinical trials methodology and statistics, and teaching.
Melanie Fischer, MA is one of the graduate research assistants on the UCAN project and is also one of the study’s assessors. She is a fourth year clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Susan Kleiman, BSFS is one of the graduate research assistants working on UCAN. She is a second year doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Five years after its initial trial and 17 dedicated team members later, we are finally ready to start the next phase of UCAN. As the research coordinator for the past 5 months, I have been in the unique position to witness every aspect of the study first-hand. I have seen nothing but forward progress and hard work. We all know that anorexia is a challenging disorder with many pernicious effects. Individuals who suffer need treatment options that work while also reducing burden on families. The UCAN program strives to do just that. We are excited to offer comprehensive study-related treatment to individuals suffering from this potentially life-threatening disorder. On behalf of the UCAN team, thank you for reading about our study.
For more information, please call us at (919) 843-2483 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Kate Nowlan, UCAN Project Coordinator