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Karina Davidson, Ph.D.

Photo of Karina Davidson, Ph.D.Karina Davidson, Ph.D.
The Herbert Irving Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry and Director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York
Comparison of Depression Interventions after Acute Coronary Syndrome (CODIACS)

Administered by the NHLBI Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch
FY 2009 Recovery Act Funding: $2,155,291

Additional Funding:
Comparison of Depression Interventions after Acute Coronary Syndrome (CODIACS)
Administered by the NHLBI Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch
FY 2010 Recovery Act Funding: $1,981,597
More information about the grant
Total funding: $4,136,888

Research Focus: Depression and heart disease are expected to be among the most prevalent health problems worldwide by 2030, according to the Projections of Global Mortality and Burden of Disease from 2002 to 2030 (PLoS Medicine 2006). More than one in three patients experiences some degree of depression or distress after having a heart attack or hospitalization for unstable angina (chest pain). Depressed patients who have had one of these heart problems – known as acute coronary syndrome, or ACS – have twice as high a risk of repeated cardiac events and death as those who aren't depressed. They also experience lower quality of life and higher health care costs.

Although it's recommended that heart disease patients be screened for depression, there are no evidence-based guidelines about how to treat depression after ACS. Little research has been conducted into which antidepressants or behavioral therapies – if any – lowers the risk of heart problems for depressed ACS patients.

Grant Close Up: Karina Davidson, Ph.D. was awarded a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Recovery Act-funded grant to compare the effectiveness of two depression treatment approaches in ACS. Her work underscores the necessity for comparative effectiveness research to evaluate different treatments.

Dr. Davidson's project is underway with help from a multidisciplinary investigative team that includes experts in cardiology, psychiatry, clinical health psychology, statistics, and clinical trials.

"When one health problem, such as depression, predicts acceleration of another, such as heart disease, we have an opportunity to work with many different researchers and health care professionals. We can share and use recent research advances to improve the health and well-being of our patients," said Dr. Davidson.

Economic Impact: The NHLBI Recovery Act-funded grant allowed Dr. Davidson to launch a multicenter, feasibility/vanguard study, which will ultimately help inform clinical practice. The project will expand upon the COPES randomized controlled trial, a small efficacy study of post-ACS patients that compared enhanced depression care – a patient-driven, stepped care intervention – to standard depression care. With the Recovery Act funds, Dr. Davidson and her team can now build upon the COPES trial and apply what was previously learned to a larger, more robust study, which will elevate the project to a Phase III comparative effectiveness trial.

"Without the Recovery Act funds, we would continue to know that these patients were at an increased risk, but not know how we could help," said Dr. Davidson.

Additionally, through the Recovery Act-funded grant, Columbia University Medical Center was able to retain three full-time positions and secure 12 employees' positions. Also, about nine jobs were created across the multicenter sites in New Haven, Conn.; Atlanta, Ga.; St. Louis, Mo; Lawrenceville, N.J.; and Washington Heights, N.Y.

New jobs range from senior research nurses to beginning research assistants, and also include data entry clerks, administrative assistants, and recent college graduates. "We were able to offer work to people with differing skills sets, and with very different job histories," said Dr. Davidson. "Each of these new employees has become an invaluable member of our team, and we are so pleased we could create jobs in this difficult economy."

'An Inspiring Group of Professionals': Within the corridors of the Columbia University Medical Center, there is a collegial atmosphere. Nurses, vascular biologists, sociologists, and cardiologists from different divisions, departments, and schools all work beside one another, taking part in many hallway conversations and exchanges.

"I work with an amazing, inspiring group of professionals. Each day is a chance to talk to staff about their great ideas, colleagues about the science they are creating, and patients about the barriers and triumphs they have encountered recently," said Dr. Davidson. "We all have a philosophy - the person who can do the best job at something, does it. This spurs creative, sustainable teamwork."

Outside the Lab: When she's not working, Dr. Davidson enjoys going to the gym with her son during the week and hiking with her daughter on the weekends. She also takes full advantage of living in New York, and frequents Broadway and off-Broadway plays with friends.

A Pivotal Time: Having been raised by two scientists, Dr. Davidson initially sought a different career path than her parents. She turned down, what she called, an incredible research assistant position and decided to ride her bike from Vancouver to San Francisco. Not long after her journey began, she found herself bored. She bought a seven-pound dictionary and started looking up words she didn't know, page by page.

"I accepted that I was doomed to a life of research, and I have been happy with the choice ever since," said Dr. Davidson.

By Morgan Woerner

Last Updated:July 7, 2010

Last Updated:August 10, 2010

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