PHHP names new clinical and health psychology department chair

By Jill Pease

Dr. William Latimer

Leading drug dependence and infectious disease researcher William W. Latimer, Ph.D., M.P.H., is the new chair of the college’s department of clinical and health psychology.

Latimer comes to UF from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he served as director of the U.S. State Department Humphrey Fellowship Program and the Drug Dependence Epidemiology Training Program, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Dr. Latimer is in a unique position to expand core strengths of the department of clinical and health psychology in its subspecialties of neuropsychology, health psychology and pediatric psychology while also developing new and innovative connections between the disciplines of psychology and public health,” said Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., dean of the college.

Latimer studies neuropsychological factors that may put people at risk for drug dependence and infectious disease transmission and has received more than $25 million in federal funding to support his research. He developed Integrated Family and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, which has been used as a drug use prevention program for middle school students and a drug treatment for adolescents and adults. The therapy will be evaluated as an HIV prevention tool in a new study in South Africa.

“UF’s clinical and health psychology department already has a strong research program, a nationally ranked educational program and a well-functioning psychology clinic,” Latimer said. “That speaks for itself, yet at the same time I see enormous opportunities for growth and linkage within the department, and also between the department and other institutes, departments and centers throughout the university with still additional opportunities for community outreach and collaboration throughout Florida, nationwide and internationally.”

In his research Latimer has focused on how the brain’s executive functions influence a range of outcomes among vulnerable populations in the presence of risk. Accurately recognizing and labeling problems, seeking needed treatment, and recovering from drug dependence, for example, are more difficult for people who have executive function deficits, Latimer said.

“My studies have shown that if you have conceptual deficits, or executive dysfunctions, you are much less likely to have the ability to recognize that you have a drug problem. You’re also much less likely to seek treatment and if you do seek treatment you’re much less likely to complete it,” he said.

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