May 25, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 21



Grand opening of START Center celebrated

Photo of Cigarroa, Johnson, Gordis, and Wartman (L-R) Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, Health Science Center president, celebrates the grand opening of the START Center with Dr. Bankole Johnson, director of the START Center; Dr. Enoch Gordis, director of the NIAAA; and Dr. Steven Wartman, dean of the Medical School and executive vice president for academic and health affairs.

The Southwest Texas Addiction Research & Technology (START) Center, the only center of its kind in the United States, was officially opened May 11.

"Today we celebrate not only a grand opening, but also a grand breakthrough," said Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, Health Science Center president, as he addressed members of the community, local media and UTHSC faculty, staff and students. "Here at the START Center, innovative research will lead to new intervention and treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction. We value this new center for the hope it offers to so many people living right here in San Antonio, and throughout the world, whose lives are controlled by addiction."

The 11,500-square-foot facility, located at 3939 Medical Drive at Horizon Hill, will serve as a center for substance abuse treatment research. Under the direction of Dr. Bankole Johnson, Wurzbach Distinguished Professor, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and deputy chairman for research in the department of psychiatry, the START Center will be both a teaching and a clinical research site. Studies will focus on therapeutic interventions such as group and individual therapies and investigational medications to reduce drug and alcohol use.

Dr. Johnson also is chief of the division of alcohol and drug addiction. One of his goals will be to intervene with and rehabilitate addicts at a younger age.

"Some of our patients come to us after 15 or 20 years of being addicted to alcohol or drugs," Dr. Johnson said. "This is far too long for them to go untreated. We need to get to the adolescents who are at the beginning stages of addiction so we can help them before it is too late."

Dr. Enoch Gordis, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); Dr. Faye Calhoun, director of the office of collaborative research at the NIAAA; and Dr. Tina Vanderveen, deputy director of the same office, were distinguished guests at the grand opening ceremony.

Dr. Gordis congratulated the Health Science Center on the addition of the START Center and praised Dr. Johnson for his leadership in making the center a reality.

"The START Center is a tribute to the citizens of San Antonio, who can be proud they have a center dedicated solely to the clinical study of alcoholism. There is no other center like it in this country," Dr. Gordis said.

"You can also be proud to have Dr. Johnson — a scholar and pioneer in addiction research — at the helm of the center," he said.

Treatment programs at the START Center include a free comprehensive diagnostic assessment, a medical counseling evaluation and financial compensation for qualified participants. Federal and private sponsors fund research at the START Center.