August 19, 2016

NAMI awards major research fellowship to U-M Department of Psychiatry

Aislinn Williams, M.D., Ph.D. selected as the first Unger fellow

The University of Michigan Health System's Department of Psychiatry recently received a five-year grant from NAMI to support a NAMI research fellow. "One of the most important things about this grant is that our research fellows will help individuals who live with serious mental illnesses and their families feel more connected to research," said NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth, M.D. "We're confident both academic centers chosen (U-M and McLean Hospital) will do an excellent job bringing the development and practice of research to life for people impacted by mental illness." Unger fellows will serve as research ambassadors to their community, primarily through their liaison with local NAMI affiliates.

The fellowship has four specific aims:

  1. To support young investigators at a critical time in their career.
  2. To sensitize them to the family context of serious mental illness, providing them with feedback about relevant issues for family members and the type of research families would like to see.
  3. To inform families about the research being conducted 'in their own backyard,' providing hope for better treatments.
  4. To provide young investigators with opportunities to learn how specific research interventions are perceived by patients and their families.

The University of Michigan has chosen Aislinn Williams, M.D., Ph.D., who is part of the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund, as the first fellow. She will do research work in first episode psychosis, with Stephan F. Taylor, M.D., as mentor. Areas of study will include stem cell research, digital application of symptom monitoring, and pharmacogenetics. A close working relationship is planned between NAMI and the University of Michigan: Dr. Williams will attend and present at NAMI's annual convention, contribute to NAMI's resources, and discuss her research work with NAMI members in person or via media.

"I am very excited to have been selected as an Unger fellow this academic year," says Dr. Williams. "The fellowship is intended to support my research, and in turn, I will help provide information and receive feedback from local NAMI affiliates to enhance the connections between research and the greater NAMI membership. I look forward to writing articles for local and national NAMI newsletters about research findings and what I do as a physician-scientist, and to presenting my work at the national NAMI convention next year."