UT Austin Professors Receive Research Grants from Hogg Foundation for Mental Health
June 1, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas – Dr. Hongjoo Lee and Dr. Michele Rountree, assistant professors at The University of Texas at Austin, are among 10 tenure-track faculty members in Texas to receive research grants totaling $150,000 from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.
The one-year grants are capped at $15,000 each. The foundation received 35 proposals from faculty at 16 colleges and universities in Texas.
Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, will study the effects of menopause and hormone replacement therapy on attention and memory, using an animal model mimicking abnormal neural activities often seen in many mental disorders. She is an expert on the nervous system’s link to psychological processes such as learning and memory and the influences of gender, trauma and mental disorders on these processes.
Rountree, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, will research the obstacles and supports experienced by people with HIV/AIDS in accessing mental health and substance use services in Texas. She studies health promotion, disease prevention and disparities in health services for marginalized populations.
“Both these studies are tackling important mental health issues and may lead to more effective treatments and services for consumers of mental health services,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the foundation.
Little is known about the effects of hormonal changes and hormone replacement therapy on women with mental illness, Lee pointed out in her proposal. More research is needed to understand the neurological links between menopause and mental and attentional disorders and to improve diagnosis and treatment.
“The goal of my research is to give much-needed answers to some questions regarding women and mental health during menopause,” Lee said. “It is the first step in helping health providers address hormonal issues, personalize treatment, and inform patients and their families of changes that may occur due to hormonal influences.”
People with HIV/AIDS are nearly twice as likely to have major depression, which can lead to faster progression of the disease and higher mortality rates, according to Rountree’s proposal. However, in 2007 more than $185 million in funding for mental health and substance use services was not fully spent for the estimated 61,000 people in Texas who have HIV/AIDS.
“I am working to gain insight into the facilitators and barriers in assessing and linking HIV-infected clients to mental health and substance abuse services in Texas,” Rountree said. “Understanding these factors is critical to meeting the mental health and substance abuse needs of this underserved population.”
The Hogg Foundation was founded in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James Hogg to promote improved mental health for the people of Texas. The foundation’s grants and programs support mental health consumer services, research, policy analysis and public education projects in Texas.