Researcher Receives Grant From Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

October 16, 2008

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Wake Forest University School of Medicine has been awarded a $270,655 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to facilitate a research study to evaluate screening tools for risky drinking patterns.

The grant is being made under the foundation’s Substance Abuse Policy Research Program. The study will be conducted by Mary Claire O’Brien, M.D., associate professor of emergency medicine and public health sciences at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Researchers from the departments of emergency medicine, trauma surgery, biostatistics and counseling will also help facilitate the study.

The study will evaluate clinical trials that compare the effectiveness of two new, shorter screening tools for risky drinking patterns with the longer screening tool currently being used and will assess the outcomes of two different brief counseling interventions with trauma patients screened to have risky drinking behaviors.

In 2006, the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma established a national policy on alcohol screening and brief counseling interventions, mandating that Level I Trauma Centers- like Wake Forest Baptist- use the “teachable moment” generated by injury as a gateway to talk with patients to help prevent future alcohol abuse.

"My toughest job as an emergency physician is ‘breaking the news’ to families of trauma victims, so I am an ardent supporter of the new national policy,” said O’Brien. “We are grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for funding this research to determine the most effective and efficient methods for alcohol screening and brief intervention.”

The study will also evaluate the impact the implementation of the new policy might have on a busy Level I Trauma Center. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it’s estimated that 50 percent of trauma patients test positive for alcohol problems. Alcohol impairs wound healing, enhances susceptibility to infection, and increases the severity of traumatic brain injury in motor vehicle crash victims, according to O’Brien.

O’Brien has earned international acclaim for research she has done regarding alcohol, including a 2007 study that proved energy drink “cocktails” lead to increased injury risk. Earlier this year, the study was cited by the attorneys general from 25 states, who called on a leading alcohol manufacturer not to introduce a new beverage into the marketplace.


Media Contacts: Lisa Davanzo,, 336-716-6906 or Bonnie Davis,, 336-716-4977 or Shannon Koontz,, at 336-716-4587.

About the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine ( is an established center dedicated to the discovery, development and clinical translation of regenerative medicine technologies by leading faculty. The institute has used biomaterials alone, cell therapies, and engineered tissues and organs for the treatment of patients with injury or disease. The Institute is based at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (, an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.

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