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Paula Hoffman, Ph.D.

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SW: What day-to-day applications do you think your research has for both clinicians and non-clinicians?

PLH: If there are genetic-environment interactions that put certain individuals at high risk for developing addictions, we may be able to prevent the transition to dependence by recognizing these key genetic factors. This can be one goal of “personalized medicine,” to develop therapeutics that would “correct” genetic deficits that enhance the risk of addiction. We need to integrate our findings from basic research of the brain systems that influence risk for alcohol drinking, for example, with studies of genetic and environmental factors that influence the risk for alcohol dependence in humans. This process will move us one step closer to interventions that can prevent alcohol addiction.

SW: What would you like to see happen in the addiction-research field?

PLH: NIH is now promoting “functional interactions” among the institutes that study different drugs of abuse. It is important to understand not only the common mechanisms that underlie the susceptibility to development of addiction to these drugs, but also the mechanisms that are unique to each drug, so that we can develop tailored therapeutic approaches to treatment and prevention. More collaborative research will promote a better understanding and the best use of the expertise that is available in the extramural and intramural research communities.

paula hoffman quote

SW: What advice do you have for people now entering addiction research?

PLH: My advice is the same for scientists entering any scientific field: find a question that fascinates you, and follow that question where it leads you! Don’t focus only on techniques, but use techniques to answer your questions. If you need help, find collaborators who can help you to address your questions in the most effective way. Your fascination with your questions will not only engage your collaborators, but will maintain your own enthusiasm through problems and difficult times.

SW: Any last words for the ATTC audience?

PLH: I feel privileged to have the opportunity to study neuronal and genetic mechanisms that contribute to the effects of ethanol and to alcohol addiction. In my opinion, both basic science and clinical research need to be integrated in order for addiction medicine to continue to progress. This progress, in all aspects of medical research, depends on the continuing influx of new ideas and new approaches, which in turn depend on the development and support of young researchers. I hope that all scientists will take seriously their obligation to mentor and educate future investigators.

SW: In conclusion, what does your recent award – the 2013 RSA Distinguished Researcher Award – mean to you on a personal level?

PLH: I am incredibly honored to have received this award and to join the ranks of the previous awardees, whom I greatly respect. It is very gratifying to be recognized in this way by one’s peers.


Please click here for a complete biography of Dr. Paula Hoffman








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