News Release
maria oquendo
Maria A. Oquendo, MD, PhD

PHILADELPHIA— Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States that disproportionately affects minority and disenfranchised communities, including Black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ populations. Yet, these groups often are not included in suicide prevention research. In an effort to reduce disparities and increase the understanding of suicide, the National Institutes of Health awarded Penn Medicine researchers a grant of more than $14 million over the next five years to develop the Penn Innovation in Suicide Prevention Implementation Research (INSPIRE) Center.

Led by Maria A. Oquendo, MD, PhD, chair of Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Gregory K. Brown, PhD, a research associate professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry at Penn and director of the Penn Center for the Prevention of Suicide, the center brings together psychiatry, implementation science, health economics, machine learning, and other interdisciplinary research experts to apply innovative approaches to suicide prevention.

“This grant allows us to further drive much-needed suicide research for underserved groups. Not only will we develop and adapt researched-based suicide prevention interventions for underserved groups, but we’ll focus on testing ways to optimize how these evidence-based practices can be brought to scale efficiently,” Oquendo said.

gregory brown
Gregory K. Brown, PhD

Part of the focus of the center involves developing and testing strategies for a range of practice settings, including those with limited resources. For example, one project will test an approach leveraging telehealth to deliver high-quality Safety Planning Intervention and follow-up services in emergency departments.

INSPIRE will also support 10 pilot projects and a “Methods Core” focused on testing new methods to advance research at the intersection of suicide prevention and implementation science. Furthermore, the center will form a Suicide Prevention Scholars Program, to expand the cadre of suicide prevention researchers by engaging both emerging investigators and established scientists who do not currently work on suicide prevention—particularly those from groups under-represented in research.

“INSPIRE is poised to transform suicide prevention. By driving interdisciplinary, cross-sector collaborations and through advancing suicide prevention research, care, and policy, we hope to develop cost-effective, practical, and efficient ways to implement much-needed suicide prevention interventions,” said Brown, who is also a Clinical Psychologist at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia.

The new INSPIRE Center is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (P50MH127511).

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Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.9 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $496 million awarded in the 2020 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 44,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2020, Penn Medicine provided more than $563 million to benefit our community.

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