Researchers Gather for Workshop on Adverse Childhood Experiences

Researchers at ACEs conference in Amherst.
UMass researchers at the “Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences Through Research and Policy: A Tri-Campus Research Collaborative” workshop.

On May 24, a group of fourteen researchers from three University of Massachusetts campuses met at the Amherst Women’s Club for a day long workshop, “Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences Through Research and Policy: A Tri-Campus Research Collaborative.” The goal of the conference was to start conversations and spark ideas about cross-campus collaborations for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)-related research.

ACEs refers to traumatic events that occur during childhood, such as abuse, neglect or witnessing domestic violence. Numerous studies have shown that individuals who have experienced one or more ACEs have a significantly increased risk for developing certain physical and mental health disorders during their lifetime

Funded by a Small Conference Grant from the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), attendees and speakers came from the School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS), psychology and brain sciences and sociology at UMass Amherst, UMMS-Baystate and UMMS-Worcester. Sarah Goff, associate professor SPHHS, who has also held faculty appointments at the other two institutions, spearheaded the effort.  

The group was charged with generating ideas for new research proposals that would involve investigators from at least two of the three campuses. Attendees came prepared to “pitch” new ideas to the group, with 2-3 ideas being advanced toward pursuit of funding. The full day included presentations by keynote speaker Catarina Kiefe, founding chair of the department of population and quantitative health sciences at UMMS-Worcester and Amy Schalet, associate professor in the department of sociology and expert on public engagement.

The group identified several key areas to consider for further development into research proposals. These included exploring a potential need for interventions to support workers in the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families who are tasked with helping families at risk for experiencing ACEs and working with the jail and prison systems to reduce potential bias towards incarcerated persons with substance use disorder as an adjunct to programs seeking to improve medical care related to substance use disorder in these institutions. The group also identified potential mechanisms to support cross-campus collaborations between the three institutions, including development of a fellowship modeled on the Center for Research and Families Scholar Program at UMass Amherst. One participant said of the workshop, “It was so great to get off campus for a day and just focus on the possibilities for research in this area. Now we have to put all the ideas into action.”