Learning for Early Careers in Addiction & Diversity (LEAD) Program

African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans/Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders comprise 30% of the United States population, but members of these racial/ethnic minority groups continue to be significantly underrepresented among National Institutes of Health (NIH-funded researchers. Together, these groups comprised less than 5% of the applicant pool for NIH research grants from 2006 to 2015. Of all NIH research grants awarded during the same period, only 1% were to African American investigators and 3.3% to Hispanic investigators. The Learning for Early Careers in Addiction and Diversity (LEAD) training program was developed to support the efforts of assistant professors from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic minority backgrounds to receive funding from NIH as independent scientists.

The LEAD Program is integrated within the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Clinical Trials Network (CTN). The CTN provides an enterprise in which NIDA, treatment researchers, and community-based service providers across the country can effectively work toward new treatment options in community-level clinical practice. The LEAD Program uses a team mentoring approach: each LEAD Program scholar works with a CTN primary mentor, while also receiving guidance from a UCSF mentor and a nationally regarded diversity advisor. The LEAD training program also includes a funded four-week intensive program at UCSF each summer where scholars in all stages of the program participate in grant writing and manuscript development workshops to help them obtain grant funding. Other career development workshops might touch on topics that the researchers may encounter later in their careers, such as how to run a lab or an overview of power analytics.

Applying to the program

APPLY NOW online

If you have any questions, please contact:

SARP Research Assistant
University of California, San Francisco
1001 Potrero Avenue, Building 20, Box 0852
San Francisco, CA 94110-3518
Tel: (628) 206-4453
Email: [email protected]


Program faculty

Carmen L. Masson, PhD (LEAD Program Co-Director)

Dr. Masson’s research has focused on the design and evaluation of behavioral interventions to address HIV and HCV health disparities among drug using populations. Her research has included the cost and cost-effectiveness of methadone maintenance treatment, integration of syringe access services in a hospital setting as a strategy to reduce HIV transmission and increase healthcare access, barriers to healthcare access and substance use disorder treatment among drug users and other vulnerable populations, HIV/HCV testing and treatment, and strategies to improve the HCV care continuum.

Dr. Masson has been a core faculty member within the UCSF Postdoctoral Training Program in Drug Abuse Treatment and Services Research since 1998 (T32DA007250), and has mentored and co-mentored several promising early stage investigators through this training program. She has had a long-standing commitment to mentoring underrepresented minority scholars, and has participated as a mentor for undergraduate students in the NIDA Summer Research Internship program for 12 years. Dr. Masson also serves as the co-director of the local Training and Dissemination Committee for the Western States Node of the NIDA CTN, and is a member of the national CTN’s Minority Special Interest Group. The Western States Node is one of 16 regional research centers in a national network dedicated to improving drug abuse treatment by determining effectiveness of promising and clinically relevant interventions in multi-site trials, and by supporting the transfer of effective interventions into clinical practice.

Gideon St.Helen, PhD (LEAD Program Co-Director)

Dr. St.Helen is a toxicologist whose research focuses on utilizing biomarkers to characterize human systemic exposure to tobacco toxicants and carcinogens for the purpose of informing tobacco product regulation, epidemiologic research, risk assessment, and understanding of tobacco-related health disparities. His research program also includes assessing cannabis pharmacology and understanding the pharmacologic interaction between cannabis and tobacco in the various forms of co-administration.

Dr. St.Helen is an active faculty member of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, where he gives lectures to postdocs on tobacco products and biomarkers and co-leads a postdoctoral fellow grant writing course. He also serves as the education liaison for the Cancer Control Program of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. St.Helen is dedicated to mentoring and has mentored high school students, undergraduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and assistant professors.

Joseph R. Guydish, PhD (Director of Program Evaluation)

The research of Dr. Guydish concerns access, delivery, and organization of substance abuse treatment services. His work includes studies evaluating efforts to improve access to publicly-funded drug abuse treatment, assessing federal policy to end addiction as an SSI disability category, evaluating needle exchange as an HIV prevention strategy, and investigating Drug Court and intensive case management interventions for drug-involved offenders. In recent years, he has studied tobacco use among persons enrolled in substance use treatment.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Guydish has mentored 20 pre and postdoctoral scholars, for both clinical and research training. Of these scholars, five (25%) have been underrepresented minority scholars, and an additional eight (40%) were of other minorities not currently counted as underrepresented by the NIH. Much of this work occurred in the context of the UCSF NIDA T32 postdoctoral training program in Drug Abuse Treatment and Health Services Research, which is one of the programs used as a model for the LEAD Program. For 25 years, until 2019, Dr. Guydish led an annual six-month scientific writing seminar directed toward postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty, designed to support participants in the process of scientific writing and publication. In that time, the seminar had a total of 162 seminar participants and, using rules which count only one manuscript per participant per year, a 70% submission rate and a 64% publication rate for papers it supported.

Program instructors


Mentors + visiting faculty

Mentoring team

Each scholar is individually supported by an assigned mentorship team including three mentors:

  • CTN mentor: a leading researcher in the CTN node with whom the scholar will be associated and will meet with the scholar weekly in person.
  • UCSF mentor: a UCSF faculty member with some familiarity of the topics covered in the scholar’s pilot study with whom the scholar and CTN mentor will meet as needed to identify the scholar’s potential needs and difficulties that have not been addressed either by the program or by the CTN mentor.
  • Diversity advisor: an NIH-involved advisor of national stature from any institution who also facilitates access to relevant NIH offices (e.g., NIDA Office of Diversity and Health Disparities) and informs them of training, scientific, and leadership opportunities intended to support the development of minority researchers. The national stature diversity advisor will meet with each scholar on a mutually agreed upon schedule.

Summer Intensive Program


Model Substance Use Disorder Treatment Research Programs
Early career scholars can benefit from studying career paths of senior investigators who developed a successful independent research program. In this seminar, senior scientists discuss how they developed their current research programs. Topics include how the senior scientists identified a line of research, overcame obstacles to keep their research program moving forward, and solved methodological problems that arose over the course of their research. Seminar speakers will include nationally recognized experts whose area is relevant to the research interests of the scholars and the individuals who will serve as the scholar's primary mentor.

Qualitative Research Methods
An overview of qualitative research approaches is covered in this two-session seminar. Topics include ethnographic observations, focus groups, participant observation, or other qualitative research that will yield rigorous information helpful for the subsequent NIH grant submission.

Research Design
In this seminar, a brief introduction to clinical trials is presented, and practical advice is given from scientists who have conducted randomized controlled clinical trials.

Quantitative Research Methods
A biostatistician assesses each scholar’s needs for statistical analyses. When necessary, seminars will be offered on topics relevant to multiple scholars, as well as individual sessions with scholars who have specific needs. In addition to conceptual overview of research methods topics, specific examples from published clinical trials will be used to illustrate the unique ways that these analyses and design issues are dealt with in the substance use disorder treatment research field.

Cultural Adaptations of Evidence-Based Treatments
This seminar provides an in-depth discussion of the process of culturally adapting evidence-based treatments, using examples from the substance use disorder treatment field. Issues and challenges related to the design of cultural adaptations from an original evidence-based treatment are discussed. Specific topics include conceptualizing culture and context, selecting a framework and level of adaptation, identifying core intervention components, involving the target population, and identifying factors that influence cultural relevance and adaptation mismatch.

Scientific Ethics and Responsible Conduct of Science
Participants in the Scientific Ethics and Responsible Conduct of Science Seminar will be taught the importance of conducting scientific research in an ethical and responsible manner. This seminar, combined with additional supervision, workshops, and discussions, addresses the Responsible Conduct of Research training that is an important component of R25 science education projects.

Implementation Science
This seminar will provide didactic sessions comprised of multi-disciplinary set of theories and methods aimed at improving the process of translating research evidence into health-related practices. It emphasizes the integration of interventions into diverse practice settings with a community-engaged approach. Examples of implementation science studies in the substance use disorder treatment field will be reviewed through directed and educational readings and presentations.

Postdoctoral Scholar Professional Development
This seminar is designed for LEAD scholars who are enrolled in postdoctoral training programs. It will include topics such as applying for faculty positions, preparing for interviews, negotiating job offers, organizing career goals and achievements into a cohesive narrative, giving and receiving career advice, and media and communication training.


Research Development Workshop
The focus of this workshop is on the development of individual pilot projects and a successful program of research. Scholars attend a research development workshop that corresponds to scholar objectives for their year in the program. First-year scholars focus on the conceptualization of a pilot project and address particular theoretical and methodological issues unique to their projects (Pilot Development Workshop). Second-year scholars focus on the development of NIH grant applications and present research findings from first-year pilot projects (Grant Proposal Development Workshop). Third-year scholars will focus on the re-submission of NIH grant applications, if necessary, and continue to develop new NIH grant applications (Grant Proposal Revision Workshop).

Manuscript Development Workshop
In this workshop, scholars submit a pre-publication manuscript prior to each summer intensive training session. Each manuscript is assigned two reviewers, one scholar and one program faculty member. Each reviewer prepares a formal written critique of the manuscript. Reviews are presented orally in a group discussion format. This activity enables scholars to receive feedback on their manuscripts prior to submission to peer-reviewed journals, facilitates development of scientific writing skills; strengthens ability to critically evaluate the scientific literature as reviewers; and enhances understanding of the peer review process.

Pilot study project

A key to successful research training is identifying a first high-quality research project that is scientifically innovative, important, challenging, and feasible based on the scholars’ knowledge, abilities, and available resources. Scholars will complete an independent research pilot project related to substance use and addictions research. They are provided with pilot funds to conduct formative research that is expected to lead to larger grant proposals and provide data for the preliminary studies section of these proposals.

Program eligibility

All applications must satisfy the following requirements:

  1. Doctoral degree (e.g., PhD, MD, DrPH, or equivalent) in medicine, social or behavioral sciences, nursing, public health, health economics, or related fields.
  2. U.S. citizenship or permanent residency
  3. Assistant professor, assistant research scientist, or equivalent with an academic appointment at a medical school, national research university (i.e., Carnegie Foundation classification as a research university with high or very high research activity), research institute, or historically black college or university (HBCU) that offers doctoral degrees. Postdoctoral fellows enrolled in an NIH T32 training program or equivalent are also eligible.
  4. The applicant must hold an academic appointment that focuses on conducting research rather than an academic appointment that focuses primarily on teaching. Early career research scientists at non-university affiliated research institutions will also be considered, but the institution should have a strong record of NIH funding.
  5. Racial/ethnic minority background that is underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences (i.e., African American, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islanders) is preferred, but individuals from racial/ethnic minority groups that are not underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences will also be considered.
  6. Evidence of an established program of research in the field of substance use disorder and addictions as demonstrated by peer reviewed publications in the field of substance use disorder and addictions, and/or intramural grant support as either a principal investigator or co-investigator, and/or extramural grant support as a co-investigator in the field of substance use disorder and the addictions. Applicants who were a principal investigator on an NIH training grant (e.g., K award), research grant (e.g., R03, R21, R34, R01), or a component leader of a research program project (P01) or center grant (P50) will not be considered.
  7. All applicants must be eligible to accept an appointment as a trainee in the eRA Commons xTrain system for the duration of involvement in the program.
  8. Approval from the scholar's home institution to participate in the LEAD Program.

Offers to participate in the LEAD Program are contingent upon availability of funding.

Current LEAD scholars


Qiana L. Brown, PhD, MPH, LCSW

Dr. Brown is an epidemiologist, social worker, translational scientist and assistant professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. Dr. Brown’s research focuses on system-level change to improve maternal and child health – centering on preventing prenatal substance use and examining the role of the built and social environments and health and social policy in shaping substance use and other health outcomes among women, youth and families. Dr. Brown is a member of the Board of Directors for the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. Additionally, in 2019, she was named one of the Society for the Study of Addiction’s “Women of Future Influence in Addiction Science.” Before joining Rutgers, Dr. Brown earned her PhD in mental health and drug dependence epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in substance abuse epidemiology at Columbia University. She also founded and directed a non-profit, community-based substance use disorder treatment center, Jane's House of Inspiration.


Brittany Bryant, DSW, LISW-CP

Dr. Bryant received her doctorate in clinical social work from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and her master's degree in social work from the University of South Carolina. Dr. Bryant is a licensed clinician who has previously provided integrated treatment to adults and adolescents with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. Her research focuses on understanding the gaps and barriers to integrated treatment for justice-involved youth, dissemination of substance use prevention programs for school-aged children, and adapting evidenced based substance use and mental health treatments via telehealth to improve treatment retention and outcomes among youth. Dr. Bryant also has a strong interest in community outreach, education, and providing equitable and accessible treatment options.


Maria Crouch, PhD

Dr. Maria Christina Crouch (Deg Hit’an and Coahuiltecan Tribes) is an NIAAA F32 postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine working primarily with Dr. Stephanie O’Malley. Dr. Crouch received her PhD from the University of Alaska Anchorage in clinical-community psychology with a rural and Indigenous emphasis in 2021. Her doctoral research included an NHLBI Diversity Award Fellowship examining quality of life among a sample of American Indian and Alaska Native adults enrolled in a tobacco cessation randomized clinical trial. Dr. Crouch’s postdoctoral research is at the intersection of trauma-informed care, evidence-based practices, and practice-based evidence (Indigenous approaches) to address alcohol and drug issues and related health impacts of social determinants among American Indian and Alaska Native communities from a cultural, strengths-based approach.


Lauren R. Gilbert, PhD, MPH

Dr. Gilbert is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine, and contributor to community health initiatives and the Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute. With community-based participatory research (CBPR) and empowerment evaluation as guiding frameworks, Dr. Gilbert examines health disparities and concerns within the social contexts and settings of underserved and rural communities. She is particularly interested in examining substance abuse prevention and treatment disparities, and developing and evaluating interventions, specifically rural health disparities related to substance use, misuse, abuse and treatment. She is passionate about working with communities and community stakeholders to identify their unique health issues and support their solutions. Dr. Gilbert earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from Marquette University. She has a doctorate in sociology and a master’s degree in public health management and policy and from the University of Florida.

Angela Haeny, PhD

Dr. Angela Haeny graduated from the University of Missouri in 2018 with a PhD in clinical psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Ken Sher. Her graduate work involved investigating risk factors for alcohol use disorder (AUD), including family history of AUD and impulsivity. She is currently an associate research scientist at the Yale School of Medicine working with Drs. Stephanie O’Malley and Carolyn Sartor. Dr. Haeny’s research focuses on improving treatment access, retention, and outcomes among black people with substance use disorders.


Katherine (Kait) Hirchak, PhD

Kait Hirchak (Eastern Shoshone) is currently an assistant research professor at Washington State University's Department of Medical Education and Clinical Sciences. Dr. Hirchak was previously an NIAAA T32 Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of New Mexico’s Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions (CASAA). She received her doctorate in prevention science from Washington State University. For more than 10 years, she has partnered with tribal communities to enhance health and well-being. Dr. Hirchak's research interests, activities, and training are in delivering alcohol and substance use disorder interventions among American Indian/Alaska Native youth and adults, conducting clinical trials in diverse settings, and culturally adapting interventions.

Asti Jackson, PhD

Dr. Asti Jackson is an associate research scientist in the Department of Psychiatry (Division of Substance Abuse) at Yale School of Medicine. She received her PhD in behavioral pharmacology at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2017. During her doctoral studies, she investigated the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in mouse models of nicotine dependence. She currently works as a postdoc with Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin at the Yale Center of Tobacco Regulatory Science. Her current postdoctoral research investigates adolescent and adult e-cigarette use via experimental paradigms and surveys.


Micah Johnson, PhD

Dr. Micah E. Johnson is an assistant professor in the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida. Dr. Johnson is a sociologist who is also trained in criminology and psychiatric epidemiology. His research fuses substance misuse epidemiology and health services research to specifically investigate racial/ethnic and gender disparities in substance use disorder treatment services in the juvenile justice system. Dr. Johnson’s pilot proposal is entitled Examining the Stress Process Relating Ethnicity and Sex to Substance Misuse Services Outcomes (ESPRESSO) among justice-involved children. Dr. Johnson is the founder of the Study of Teen Opioid Misuse and Prevention at the University of Florida. He was awarded the Lydia Donaldson Tutt-Jones Research Grant and the McKnight Award of Excellence, as well as membership in the Alpha Lambda Epsilon Honors Society, membership in the Bouchet Honors Society, and other honors.


Caravella McCuistian, PhD, MA

Dr. Caravella McCuistian received her doctoral degree in psychology from the University of Cincinnati in August 2019. Her research interests include addressing health disparities among underserved populations including racial/ethnic minorities, women, individuals living with HIV, and substance-using populations. She has conducted research that utilizes community-engaged methodology, including community-based participatory research, to develop behavioral interventions to improve sexual health. These interventions target HIV prevention and sexual risk reduction in a culturally informed way for women who use substances as well as women engaged in transactional sex. Dr. McCuistian is also interested in addressing health disparities in novel ways and has contributed to research aimed at developing interventions for individuals within substance use treatment facilities as well as leveraging technology to provide interventions to underserved communities.

Oladunni Oluwoye, PhD, CHES

Dr. Oladunni Oluwoye received her PhD in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. Her postdoctoral training focused on co-occurring substance use disorders and serious mental illness. Dr. Oluwoye’s research is more specifically focused on addressing substance use among youth and young adults experiencing their first episode of psychosis. She is also interested in improving service utilization and engagement among clients and families with an emphasis on racial and ethnic minorities. Other interests include implementation science as a way to increase the adoption, acceptability, and effectiveness of evidence-based practices in community-based settings. Dr. Oluwoye is currently a long-term investigator on a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism diversity supplement focused on improving the adoption of contingency management.

Former LEAD scholars

Sabrina Assoumou, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, Boston University

Kara Bagot, MD
Assistant Professor, UCLA

Rick Cruz, PhD
Assistant Professor, Arizona State University

Sycarah Fisher, PhD
Associate Professor, University of Georgia

Jemima A. Frimpong, PhD
Associate Professor, New York University, Abu Dhabi

Theddeus Iheanacho, MBBS, DTM&H
Associate Professor, Yale University School of Medicine

Ayana Jordan, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, New York University

Latrice Montgomery, PhD
Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Pilar Sanjuan, PhD
Associate Professor, University of New Mexico

Gideon St.Helen, PhD
Associate Professor, UCSF

Tamika Zapolski, PhD
Associate Professor, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis