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Dr. Anand Kumar, M.D., Lizzie Gilman Professor, Head of the Department, Director of UICDR
Dr. Marc Atkins, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Juvenile Research, Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry 
Dr. Scott Langenecker, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, Director of Cognitive Neuroscience Center
Dr. Pauline Maki, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, Director of Women’s Mental Health Research
Dr. K. Luan Phan, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and Anatomy & Cell Biology, Director of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Program and Associate Head for Clinical and Translational Research
Dr. Mark Rasenick, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Biophysics and Psychiatry
Josh Gryniewicz, Communication Director
Elisa Quinlan, Director of Development

Volume 1, Issue 2
February 2016 – April 2016


This issue of the UI Center on Depression & Resilience (UICDR) newsletter highlights important developments in our mission to break new ground in research and make transformational advances in treatment of mood disorders.

DR K From our efforts to identify and treat depression in pregnant and postpartum women living in poverty to our exploration of new technologies to deliver needed treatment, we embody the promise of a Center that emphasizes collaboration, cooperation, compassion and ingenuity.

Through continued innovation, UICDR investigators bridge expertise across research across disciplines to reconsider how we look at and treat depression.

In this issue, you will read about:

  • Jenna Duffecy’s groundbreaking work using technology to deliver depression treatment and her collaboration with Dr. Pauline Maki to screen and treat underserved pregnant and postpartum women at UIC. 
  • Our partnership with the film “Touched with Fire” starring Luke Kirby and Katie Holmes that provides a realistic and compassionate look at bipolar disorder and its effect not only on patients but on their families. 
  • The remarkable accomplishments of Dr. John M. Davis, professor of psychiatry and a research professor of medicine, who has been named one of the “World’s Most Influential” researchers.

  • A visit from National Geographic to Dr. Stewart Shankman’s laboratory.

    As a “Center of Excellence,” we advance research on depression and related mood disorders so that we can better detect, prevent, and treat depression across the lifespan. We appreciate your interest and your support.

    Anand Kumar, MD

UI Center on Depression & Resilience Launches Interdisciplinary Initiative for Perinatal Depression

Sunnyside for Moms, a new initiative at the UI Center on Depression & Resilience (UICDR), helps pregnant and postpartum women from low-income Chicago neighborhoods get needed screening and treatment for depression. This multidisciplinary initiative combines cutting-edge technology, enhanced mental health outreach efforts, and innovative approaches to identify blood biomarkers for depression.  Such efforts help women and their newborns and are integral to the UICDR designation as part of the National Network of Depression Centers. It is the future of medicine and it is happening here.



Innovation in Health Care Delivery.

In grad school, Jenna Duffecy worked on a health psychology project with cardiac arrest survivors and their spouses. It was a behavior change intervention that looked at diet, exercise, and medication adherence. Throughout the 12-week intervention for the group, ages 40 and above, people had trouble staying engaged in the program—even when their lives depended on it. It occurred to her then that they needed other ways of providing care for people besides just face-to-face delivery. A few years later, that opportunity would present itself. Dr. Duffecy’s desire to overcome these real-world obstacles shaped her career and led to the Sunnyside for Moms initiative she is currently implementing in conjunction with the Women’s Mental Health Research Program at the UICDR.

It was the early aughts; smart phone technology didn’t really exist, online behavior change was limited to some weight loss programs, and no one was really tackling mental health in a digital space. After earning her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, Dr. Duffecy accepted a research position. Working alongside a single programmer, she agreed to work on a small grant to develop a web intervention focused on depression. As the technology developed, Duffecy knack for connecting emerging technology with cognitive behavioral approaches became clear.

“Smart phone apps, websites, text messaging, tablets—you name it and I have probably done something with it.” She explains. “I worked on close to 50 projects with a team of 12 programmers specializing in these kinds of interventions.”  She worked closely in this team as the first wave of development and innovation in remote, integrated treatment developed. This technology is now ready to be marketed and holds great promise in substantially reducing morbidity and mortality in mood disorders.

Today, Dr. Duffecy is the Director of CBT Research and Services at UIC, a clinician in the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Clinic, and a researcher. As a clinician scientist with unique expertise in technology, she has worked in the UI Center on Depression and Resilience to yield innovative results.  

“I have always believed strongly in the clinician/scientist model. That was part of the reason that I always kept a private practice when I was a researcher, because I am not sure how you can develop these kinds of interventions if you are not actively providing them.”

“If I wasn’t in this constant dialogue with people about it, I know I would miss opportunities to intervene as a researcher. I wouldn’t be as good at creating the kinds of interventions that I create if I wasn’t skilled at helping people to modify their thought.”

Breaking Down Barriers to Treatment.

Most recently, the result is Sunnyside for Moms, an app that she developed to prevent depression in pregnant low-income minority women who show signs of depression. In partnership with Dr. Pauline Maki, Director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender, and faculty in the UIC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, she is implementing the tool as a referral option for women seeking prenatal care at UIC.  In a six-week trial including 25 women, Sunnyside decreased symptoms of depression, and was a marked success. Participants were better able to manage their mood and stress, and take on the responsibilities of motherhood.

“I would say that at least a good 30 percent of people enrolled in our trials had zero interest in pursuing traditional mental health, yet these were all folks who met the criteria for depression.“ Duffecy adds.  “They needed help, but they weren’t going to get it the way that it is currently available.”

Integrating Opportunities to Improve Care, Extend Reach, & Expand Knowledge.

For Dr. Maki, the process starts even further upstream, determining how to identify and screen pregnant moms for depression.  The same barriers to care that required the team to get creative with interventions after they showed signs of depression existed before they were even screened. Many women were not receiving routine medical care, let alone receiving mental health screening or treatments. But their routine check-ups during pregnancy provided a window of opportunity for the research team to address those barriers to care.

Over the past seven years, the Women’s Mental Health Research program has focused on how changes in hormones influence women’s mood and cognition. Their largest effort right now is concentrated on pregnant women and began with an intriguing opportunity. The National Network for Depression Centers Women’s Mental Health Taskforce had just created a common instrument to assess mental health history, social variables and demographics, and screen for depression and anxiety so that the same scales were being used nationwide. Simultaneously, a University initiative provided discounts to researchers for storing and processing blood from routine clinical visits for research purposes.

When she first heard about the opportunities she assembled a multidisciplinary team from Obstetrics, Psychiatry and the UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences. Together they developed a project to prospectively measure mental health and blood biomarkers in women during pregnancy and the postpartum.

“We received a grant to do a feasibility study of universal depression screening on pregnant women at UIC. A large proportion of pregnant women seen at UIC are  underserved, minority women who outside of pregnancy don’t receive mental health screening or assessment, because they don’t general access the health care system.” Maki elaborates. “Pregnancy allows them to do that.”

The Sunnyside Program – A Quick Overview.

The research program is two pronged.

First, the team trained all the OBGYN providers—physicians, nurses, midwives, attendees, residents—on how to use the PhQ9, a validated tool for screening depression that can help make the distinction between pregnancy related depression and clinical depression.

Second, they created protocols to follow up on screens for depression, so that appropriate interventions can be created that account for the social, cultural, and physical barriers to receiving care. This includes the CBT app, developing a protocol where CBT can be delivered over the phone, and a group therapy tailored to the needs of UIC obstetric patients.

“The work we are doing in this area is pretty novel, but we need a lot of support to do it. We need changes in policies that can pay for these novel treatments and we need people who are willing to donate.” Maki notes.

The Sunnyside for Moms project just successfully completed its first 6 week trial and is in the midst of its next phase.  Additional funding is needed to provide follow up care.    

mom 2

“Uncertainty Lab” Receives Unlikely Visitor

In the Chicago Laboratory of Emotion and Physiology, dubbed the “Uncertainty Lab,” Dr. Stewart Shankman uses a multi-method approach to understand the nature of depression and explore the relationship between mood and anxiety disorders.  His research, integral to the efforts of the UI Center on Depression and Resilience, combines clinical and epidemiological approaches with neuroscience and psychophysiological methods and it has caught the eye of a very different team of investigators.

The National Geographic Channel partnered with actor and host Morgan Freeman to explore the “Story of God” in a six-part event series.  In an effort to answer deep philosophical questions about the existence of God, the nature of evil, and the afterlife, Freeman and the National Geographic Channel travel around the world to explore different cultures and religions on the ultimate quest to uncover the meaning of life, God and all these big questions in between.


The second episode in the series, featuring Dr. Shankman, aired on Sunday, April 10th at 9/8c and explores the mythology of end times. The National Geographic Channel visited the UICDR Lab and asked Shankman to speculate on connections between apocalyptic literature and anxiety with some surprising conclusions.

Shankman came to UIC in 2005 after receiving his Ph.D. at Stony Brook University, where he was mentored by prominent clinical psychologist Daniel Klein. Shankman has produced over 90 publications and articles in leading journals and has been part of UICDR since its inception. On the National Geographic special he illustrates the theory that humans may derive comfort from stories of the apocalypse in his UIC-based lab. Walking viewers through an experiment that measures the size of the startle response when a subject is surprised by a shock rather than being told it is coming seems to indicate a human tendency to get comfort from trying to anticipate the worst of possible outcomes, the end of the world.

 “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman” series premiered Sunday, April 3 at 9/8c. The episode with Dr. Shankman aired April 10 at 9/8c. The series can be also be viewed on demand. Check your listings for additional showings.

Psychiatrist John M. Davis Among “World’s Most Influential” Researchers


University of Illinois Center on Depression & Resilience Psychiatrist Dr. John M. Davis has been listed among “some of the world’s most influential scientific minds” according to a 2015 Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers. By analyzing published journal articles and citations considered an objective measure of a researcher’s influence over the past 12 years the list ranked Dr. Davis in the top 1 percent most cited for their subject field and year of publication earning him the mark of “exceptional impact.”

Davis’ studies into the biological basis of mental illness and the role of psychotropic drugs to treat them was paradigm shifting. His work introduced to psychiatry that major mental illness may be caused by biochemical abnormalities. His group was among the first to do studies on the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of psychotropic drugs. He was also among the first several physicians to introduce meta-analysis as a tool to pool scientific data.

Today, Davis continues to pursue his interest in nutrition’s effect on mental and physical health, including work on how a mother’s diet during pregnancy influences a child’s intellectual capacity and mental health. As a result of this work, the FDA’s revised its guidelines for diet of during pregnancy and the US Government’s changed its recommendations on nutrition.

“Touched with Fire” Provides UICDR the Opportunity to Look at Bipolar Beyond Stigma


The University of Illinois Center on Depression & Resilience (UICDR) were among the first nationwide to catch a sneak peak of “Touched with Fire” starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby. The film centers on two bipolar patients who meet in a psychiatric hospital and begin a romance that brings out both the beauty and horror of their condition. UICDR partnered with Roadside Attractions and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) to host a screening for nearly 300 attendees.

“While many film and television stories use mental health, including bipolar disorder, as a dramatic trope there are very few movies that present an authentic portrait of mental illness.” Dr. Anand Kumar, who introduced the film and emceed a panel discussion after it screened, expressed of the opportunity. “This film provides the opportunity to better understand one of the nation’s most discussed, yet least understood, mental health conditions.”

Touched with Fire takes the audience on a journey through the highs and lows of bipolar disorder showing how it impacts not only individuals but their friends, families and work life. The panel discussion elaborated on lessons illustrated by the film with writer/director Paul Dalio, actor Luke Kirby, DBSA President, Robert Kazel and UICDR Clinician Dr. Julie Carbray with the Pediatric Mood Disorder Clinic (PMDC). Julie

CBS Local News visited the PMDC in advance of the film screening to interview Dr. Carbray and discuss the Rainbow Therapy model developed in the clinic for bipolar disorder. This is a child- and family-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program for children and adolescents with Bipolar Spectrum that runs a twelve week course with booster sessions.

The film released nationwide in February, UICDR continues to help promote the film as a tool that can provide a unique and humanizing glimpse into the disorder that may help to reduce stigma.

Your investment, your partnership, makes our work possible.

The work of the UICDR would not be possible without the generous support of our donors.Your tax-deductible donation makes it possible to accelerate research by decades—with the potential to save thousands of lives and millions of dollars, while improving the quality of living for countless more. Consider a donation to support the groundbreaking research and patient care through our Center. You can make a gift by clicking here to follow the link or by contacting Elisa Quinlan, Director of Development, at or 312-996-4901.