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Graduate student goes from research to results

Sean O'Hagen earned dual undergraduate degrees in psychology and classics at Montclair State University, but chose to pursue his doctorate in clinical psychology at Binghamton because he saw a close-knit program — a happy group of people “really working together.”

With Professor Stephen Lisman as his adviser, O'Hagen was placed with the Keeping Youth Drug-free and Safe (KYDS) Coalition, a Broome County Youth Prevention Partnership program. Partners, including area school districts, police and the mental health department, are committed to reducing substance abuse among area youth.

Lisman served as consultant to the Broome County Mental Health Department to help develop the program and remains committed to it through placement and guidance of graduate students, including O'Hagen.

“Sean is thoughtful and reflective, always challenging conventional wisdom,” Lisman said. “He keeps everyone on their toes.”

And coalition results are impressive: The KYDS Coalition recently won the prestigious Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Science to Service Award for Substance Abuse Prevention from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.

O'Hagen’s coalition tasks were varied, including analysis and administration of surveys to measure substance use as well as risk and protective factors. He also coordinated selection of a new survey instrument and administration of it to more than 5,000 students in area school districts. “The survey is the main outcomes measure on substance abuse and antisocial behavior,” he said.

“My year was a translational one,” O'Hagen said. “Programs were set up in schools already, and we worked on how to branch off from individuals and families into the community.”

To create awareness, O'Hagen worked with local media. “We created public service announcements based on what is going on in the community and ideas of what would be effective,” he said. “We took the evidence-based research backing these ideas and tailored it to the community. “

O'Hagen continues to work with the program. “I’m a small piece of this larger thing,” he said. “This kind of work can have such a good effect of what is my community.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08