University of Minnesota Hires Sade Spencer to Medical Discovery Team on Addiction

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Naomi McDonald, Director of Communications
December 7, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (December 7, 2017) – The University of Minnesota Medical School today announced that Sade Spencer, Ph.D. has accepted a faculty position in the Department of Pharmacology and will be a member of the Medical Discovery Team (MDT) on Addiction.

“We are ecstatic to have Dr. Spencer join this team,” said Dr. Tim Ebner, Head of the Department of Neuroscience, and Interim Head of the Medical Discovery on Addiction at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “Sade’s cutting-edge work focuses on the changes in the brain that occur following addiction. Specifically, her research examines how drugs of abuse alter the brain such that it is unable to control drug craving, ultimately producing relapse.“

Dr. Jill Siegfried, Head of the Department of Pharmacology believes, “The addition of Dr. Spencer to our faculty will greatly enhance our efforts to identify how the brain reorganizes itself in response to addictive drugs, allowing us to hone in on pathways that cause craving and find ways to disrupt them. The Pharmacology Department hopes Dr. Spencer’s work will ultimately result in new therapies to prevent relapse.” 

Dr. Spencer is a currently a post-doctoral research fellow at The Medical University of South Carolina. She holds a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award given to top young scientists in their field. In addition, she received a highly prestigious Burroughs Wellcome Fund for Postdoctoral Enrichment award. Her research has been published in top scientific journals including Biological Psychiatry, Journal of Neuroscience, and Molecular Psychiatry. Dr. Spencer received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She received her B.S. in Biology, graduating summa cum laude from the University of Alabama. 

When asked about her hiring, Dr. Spencer stated, “I am excited to join the MDT on Addiction and the Pharmacology Department at the University of Minnesota. The biomedical sciences are increasingly becoming a collaborative endeavor, and UMN has taken a progressive approach to build a dynamic multi-disciplinary unit to tackle the growing societal problems related to drug addiction. I am honored to be a part of this group, which will no doubt contribute to the fundamental advancement of our knowledge related to this global issue.”

The overarching vision of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction is to link basic research to new therapeutic approaches to treating substance abuse. The MDT is a multi-departmental endeavor within the University of Minnesota Medical School to advance research and treatment in the field of drug addiction. As part of this team, Dr. Spencer will conduct research to gain a better understanding of how different neural circuits within the brain regulate various motivational behaviors, in order to address mechanisms that can both diminish the addictive properties as drugs, as well as increase the ability to fend off urges to continuously abuse them.

“We are working to solve the mystery of how drugs work and thanks to the generous support from the Governor and state lawmakers, the State of Minnesota has appropriated significant funds over the next ten years for the Medical School to create a world-class, neuroscience-based program for the study and treatment of addiction,” said Jakub Tolar, Dean of the Medical School and Interim Vice President for the Health Sciences, adding “Through her work on the Medical Discovery Team, Dr. Spencer will work to develop knowledge to help people recovering from addiction achieve longer periods of abstinence.”

The Medical Discovery Team on Addiction is recruiting up to ten basic scientists and physician-scientists from diverse disciplines, including Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Radiology. Dr. Spencer will join the University of Minnesota in April 2018.

About the University of Minnesota Medical School
The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. Visit med.umn.edu to learn how the University of Minnesota is innovating all aspects of medicine.

CONTACT: Naomi McDonald, Director of Communications, University of Minnesota Medical School, naomim@umn.edu, (612) 301-9525. 

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