Nursing, Psychiatry professor garners Fulbright award

A U-M Nursing Professor who teaches healthcare workers to identify and  address substance use among patients has been named a Fulbright Scholar.

Nursing Professor Stephen Strobbe (center) with colleagues from USP Ribeirão Preto during a 2016 UMMS-Brazil symposium.

Stephen Strobbe, Clinical Associate Professor of Nursing and Psychiatry, recently earned a  2017-18 Fulbright “Core” Teaching and Research Award to work in Brazil, educating faculty, students, and clinicians in early intervention tactics to prevent and reduce  substance use among adolescents. The award will fund a partnership with colleagues at the University of São Paulo (USP) School of Nursing at Ribeirão Preto, where Dr. Strobbe will spend time this summer and again in 2018.

“Substance use and related disorders are a leading cause of preventable injury and premature deaths, both in the United States, and Brazil,” said Dr. Strobbe, PhD, RN. “As an advocate for evidence-based, public health approaches to these issues, I’m honored to be given this opportunity. This isn’t simply a U.S. problem, it’s a global public health issue.”

Sponsored by the federal government, the Fulbright Scholarship Program is intended to connect U.S. scholars with counterparts overseas to collaborate on global challenges. Dr. Strobbe is the first School of Nursing faculty member in more than a decade to garner a traditional Fulbright.

In Brazil, Dr. Strobbe will look to expand aspects of his current work at U-M. During the past year, in conjunction with an initiative supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, he has been integrating Adolescent SBIRT (screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment) for substance use into the curriculum at the School of Nursing, instructing undergraduate and advanced practice nursing students on ways to broach the subject of substance use with patients. More than 300 U-M School of Nursing students have already received this training, including computer simulation and interactive clinical simulations.

“Nurses are on the front lines of this issue because they are the first point of contact for patients in virtually every healthcare setting,” he said. “By training our nurses to prevent and recognize potential signs of substance use and the proper way to start a conversation, we have the potential to make a big impact.”

At Ribeirão Preto, which runs a number of outpatient mental health service clinics, Dr. Strobbe will focus initially on teaching SBIRT practices to faculty and clinicians, encouraging them to integrate it into their practices, and studying early intervention outcomes. While Brazil is not facing an opioid epidemic, as in the United States, alcohol, cannabis, and crack cocaine present pressing problems there, Dr. Strobbe said.

“SBIRT has been endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), and Brazil is an area of focus. Now we hope to learn whether this specific approach translates well to a Brazilian culture and context,” he said. “Many of my faculty partners in Brazil have already seen and used some of the Adolescent SBIRT materials, and they are enthused about further exploring and employing this approach.”

Dr. Strobbe will spend two months at Ribeirão Preto this summer, with a follow-up visit of similar duration planned for 2018, both of which will be funded by the Fulbright grant. He has visited the School of Nursing in Ribeirão Preto before – including as a visiting professor in 2013 – but never for an extended period.

“One of the advantages of the way this Fulbright was structured, with two extended visits over two years, is that it will be much more conducive to establishing long-term partnerships,” he said. “That’s one of the most exciting aspects of this project, not only sharing our knowledge and methods with Brazil, but learning how the U.S. health system can benefit from their best practices as well.”