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Background: Diversion programs are considered alternatives to the arrest and incarceration of non-violent drug offenders, including those found in possession of smaller amounts of cannabis in states with prohibitive laws. Despite the progressive nature of such programs, the inability to complete diversion program requirements can
often result in greater involvement with the criminal justice system than traditional case adjudication. Few studies have evaluated racial group differences in cannabis diversion program completion.

Methods: The current study examined a sample of 8323 adult participants in Harris County, Texas’ Marijuana Misdemeanor Diversion Program (MMDP) between March 2017 and July 2019. Gender, age, and race/ethnicity were examined as predictors of program completion and time to completion using Chi square, Kruskal Wallis tests, and Cox proportional hazard regression models.

Results: Both males and African Americans were over-represented (80 % and 50 %, respectively) among participants of Harris County’s MMDP. African American (HR = 0.782, 95 % CI [.735–.832], p < .001) and Latino American MMDP participants (HR = .822, 95 % CI [.720–.937], p = .003) had significantly lower odds of MMDP completion and a longer interval to program completion as compared to non-Latino White participants.

Conclusions: The current study identified racial/ethnic and gender disparities in a large county’s cannabis diversion program. These findings may be related to law enforcement disparities which disproportionately target males and people of color. Findings may serve to inform the continued reform of the criminal justice system, particularly laws relating to cannabis.

Tobacco use is exceedingly high among those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness but not commonly addressed by clinicians. Taking Texas Tobacco Free (TTTF) is a tobacco control program that addresses known clinician barriers to intervention (e.g., low training receipt, limited resources). Here, we examine the process and outcomes of TTTF’s adaptation within four agencies that provide housing or other services to individuals who are homeless or vulnerably housed. Pre- and post-implementation data were collected from clinicians (N = 68) to assess changes in training receipt, knowledge, and intervention behaviors, relative to program goals. Results indicated significant gains in clinicians’ receipt of training in 9 (of 9) target areas (p’s ≤ 0.0042) and a 53% knowledge gain (p < 0.0001). From pre- to post-implementation, there were mean increases in the use of the 5As (ask, advise, assess, assist, and arrange) and other evidence-based interventions for tobacco cessation, with significant gains seen in assisting residents/clients to quit, arranging follow-ups, and providing or referring for non-nicotine medications (p’s ≤ 0.0491). All program goals, except gains related to advising smokers to quit and the use of specific interventions (behavioral counseling), were met. Overall, TTTF improved clinicians’ capacity to address tobacco use among homeless and vulnerably housed individuals and can serve as a model for tobacco control efforts in similar agencies.


Smoking is elevated amongst individuals with behavioral health disorders, but not commonly addressed. Taking Texas Tobacco Free is an evidence-based, tobacco-free workplace program that addresses this, in-part, by providing clinician training to treat tobacco use in local mental health authorities (LMHAs). This study examined organizational moderators of change in intervention delivery from pre- to post-program implementation.



LMHA leaders completed the Organizational Readiness for Implementing Change (ORIC) and provided organization demographics pre-implementation. Clinicians (N = 1237) were anonymously surveyed about their consistent use of the 5As (Asking about smoking; Advising clientele to quit; Assessing willingness to quit; Assisting them to quit; Arranging follow-up) pre- and post-program implementation. Adjusted generalized linear mixed models were used for analyses (responses nested within LMHAs), with interaction terms used to assess moderation effects.



Clinician delivery of 5As increased pre- to post-implementation (p < .001). LMHAs with fewer employees (ref = ≤300) demonstrated greater increases in Asking, Assessing, and Assisting over time. LMHAs with fewer patients (ref = ≤10 000) evinced greater changes in Asking over time. Less initial ORIC Change Efficacy, Change Commitment, and Task Knowledge were each associated with greater pre- to post-implementation changes in Asking. Less initial Task Knowledge was associated with greater increases in Advising, Assessing, and Assisting. Finally, less initial Resource Availability was associated with greater increases in Assisting (all moderation term ps < .025).



The smallest and least ready LMHAs showed the largest gains in tobacco cessation intervention delivery; thus, low initial readiness was not a barrier for program implementation, particularly when efficacy-building training and resources are provided.


This study examined organizational moderators of increases in tobacco cessation treatment delivery over time following the implementation of a comprehensive tobacco-free workplace program within 20 of 39 LMHAs across Texas (hundreds of clinics; servicing >50% of the state) from 2013 to 2018. Overall, LMHAs with fewer employees and patients, and that demonstrated the least initial readiness for change, evinced greater gains in intervention delivery. Findings add to dissemination and implementation science by supporting that low initial readiness was not a barrier for this aspect of tobacco-free workplace program implementation when resources and clinician training sessions were provided.

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Several studies since the 1990s have demonstrated that children increase their body mass index at a faster rate during summer months compared with the school year, leading some to conclude that the out-of-school summer environment is responsible. Other studies, however, have suggested that seasonality may play a role in children's height and weight changes across the year. This article reviews evidence for seasonal differences in the rate of children's height and weight gain and proposes potential physiological mechanisms that may explain these seasonal variations.

Faculty Member

Both hard material photolithography and soft lithography are widely used for patterned cell culture. Soft lithography techniques enable bioactive molecule incorporation, however complex surface modifications are required to introduce specific ligands or proteins in conventional photolithography. In this study, we demonstrate human umbilical vein cell (HUVEC) and adult bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) patterning on titanium diboride (TiB2) layers deposited on silicon (Si) substrates by electron-beam evaporation and micropatterned using photolithography. Micropatterned cell growth specificity on geometric shapes of circle and/or lines is achieved via differential growth factors adsorption in the presence of heparin. Specifically, the deposited films of TiB2 showed increased stiffness, hardness, hydrophilicity and surface charge when compared to background Si. These substrates were found to be compatible with HUVEC and MSC viability, based on biomarker expression and RNA-sequence transcriptome analysis. Cell-type dependent, micropattern selective cell growth, such as contact guidance, alignment, and durotaxis, were observed. In addition, MSC clustering was achieved, enabling a three-dimensional (3D) aggregate based microenvironment during culture. This study clearly demonstrates the potential of microfabricated Si and TiB2 biomaterials for patterned cell culture in vitro, independent of any additional surface modification.

Faculty Member

Comprehensive aptamer-based screening identifies a spectrum of urinary biomarkers of lupus nephritis across ethnicities

Emerging urinary biomarkers continue to show promise in evaluating lupus nephritis (LN). Here, we screen urine from active LN patients for 1129 proteins using an aptamer-based platform, followed by ELISA-validation in two independent cohorts comprised of 127 inactive lupus, 107 active LN, 67 active non-renal lupus patients and 74 healthy controls, of three different ethnicities. Urine proteins that best distinguish active LN from inactive disease are ALCAM, PF-4, properdin, and VCAM-1 among African Americans, sE-selectin, VCAM-1, BFL-1 and Hemopexin among Caucasians, and ALCAM, VCAM-1, TFPI and PF-4 among Asians. Most of these correlate significantly with disease activity indices in the respective ethnic groups, and surpass conventional metrics in identifying active LN, with better sensitivity, and negative/positive predictive values. Several elevated urinary molecules are also expressed within the kidneys in LN, based on single-cell RNA-seq analysis. Longitudinal studies are warranted to assess the utility of these biomarkers in tracking lupus nephritis.

Faculty Member

ObjectiveClostridioides difficile spores can survive in the environment either in mono- or mixed-species biofilms. However, no previous studies have investigated chemical disinfection of C. difficile spores embedded in biofilms. Thus, the purpose of this study was to assess the in vitro effectiveness of hospital disinfectants against C. difficile spores embedded within biofilms.Methods: Five unique C. difficile strains embedded in three different biofilm types grown for 72 or 120 hours were exposed to seven different hospital disinfectants. C. difficile log CFU/mL was calculated after manufacturer determined contact times along with biofilm biomass and microscopy. The primary analysis compared differences between C. difficile vegetative cell and spore counts as well as biomass after exposure to disinfectants.Results: C. difficile vegetative cells and spores were recovered from biofilms regardless the type of biofilm growth or biofilm growth time. No disinfectant was able to completely eliminate C. difficile from the biofilms. Overall, Clorox, OPA, and Virex were most effective at killing C. difficile spores regardless of biofilm age, ribotype, or wash conditions (p= 0.001, each). Clorox and OPA were also effective at killing total vegetative cell growth (P=0.001, each) but Virex was found to be ineffective against vegetative cell growth in biofilms (p=0.77). Clorox and Virex were most effective in reducing biomass followed by Nixall, OPA and Vital oxide.Conclusion No disinfectant was able to completely eliminate C. difficile embedded within biofilms although differences among disinfectants were noted. Future research will be required to determine methods to eradicate this persister reservoir.

Faculty Member

27-Hydroxycholesterol (27HC) is an abundant cholesterol metabolite and has detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system, whereas its impact on adiposity is not well known. In this study, we found that elevations in 27HC cause increased body weight gain in mice fed a high-fat/high-cholesterol diet in an estrogen receptor α-dependent manner. Regardless of diet type, body fat mass was increased by 27HC without changes in food intake or fat absorption. 27HC did not alter energy expenditure in mice fed a normal chow diet and increased visceral white adipose mass by inducing hyperplasia but not hypertrophy. Although 27HC did not augment adipocyte terminal differentiation, it increased the adipose cell population that differentiates to mature adipocytes. RNA sequencing analysis revealed that 27HC treatment of mice fed a normal chow diet induces inflammatory gene sets similar to those seen after high-fat/high-cholesterol diet feeding, whereas there was no overlap in inflammatory gene expression among any other 27HC administration/diet change combination. Histological analysis showed that 27HC treatment increased the number of total and M1-type macrophages in white adipose tissues. Thus, 27HC promotes adiposity by directly affecting white adipose tissues and by increasing adipose inflammatory responses. Lowering serum 27HC levels may lead to an approach targeting cholesterol to prevent diet-induced obesity.


Although smoking prevalence rates among behavioral health consumers is nearly five times that of the general population, evidence-based policies and practices to address tobacco use are uncommon within behavioral health settings. This study assessed changes in non-clinical, general staff and clinician tobacco-related knowledge following brief education provided as part of a comprehensive tobacco-free workplace program implementation and explored organizational moderators of pre- to post-education knowledge change.



Fifteen behavioral health facilities, comprising hundreds of individual clinics in Texas, participated in a one (for general staff) or two (for clinicians) hour educational session.



There were large effect sizes in general staff knowledge gain within each consortium, and large effect sizes in clinician knowledge gain in all but one consortium. Knowledge of the requirements for change, perceived availability of resources, and total number of client contacts moderated general staff knowledge gain. Value in the change and total number of client contacts moderated training effectiveness among clinicians.



We conclude that a brief tobacco-related education for behavioral health employees was effective in increase attendee knowledge.


Practice implications

Attention to organization-level factors moderating knowledge gain has the potential to guide and improve program implementation.

Faculty Member

Although human psychological risks gravely threaten the safety and success of future Mars missions, current knowledge of the mental health problems most likely to manifest during long duration space exploration (LDSE) is surprisingly inadequate. Previous research conducted during spaceflight and in analog settings has produced discrepant, sometimes contradictory findings and relied on measures that have not been validated for use in extreme environments, where the number, intensity, and duration of stressors exceed typical human experience. We therefore developed the Mental Health Checklist (MHCL) based on subject matter interviews and comprehensive literature reviews. In study one, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses resulted in 3 reliable subscales (positive adaptation, poor self-regulation, and anxious apprehension) explaining 53% of the total variance. In study two, we examined the reliability and convergent validity of the MHCL in large sample of participants stationed in Antarctica. Findings suggest the MHCL to have acceptable psychometric properties for use in extreme settings. We encourage other researchers to incorporate the MHCL in future studies, including spaceflight research, and to examine its sensitivity for capturing intra-individual symptom changes over time.