UMCP’s Jessica Magidson Named an MPower Professor

Published on the College of Behavioral & Social Sciences website | November 16, 2023

Jessica Magidson, a University of Maryland researcher best known for the peer-based substance use disorder (SUD) treatments she and her team developed to help individuals struggling with addiction, was one of six 2023 MPower Professors named Friday by the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the State. 

The MPower Professorship is awarded to faculty working across the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) campuses to address the most pressing issues of our time. It provides each MPower Professor with $150,000, allocated over three years, to apply to their salary or to support supplemental research activities.

“Jessica Magidson truly embodies everything the MPower Professorship is about. For years, she has worked tirelessly to develop, deploy, and test innovative ways of helping—and empowering—individuals struggling with addiction. Her work has helped people in Baltimore, as well as in Africa and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” said Susan Rivera, Dean of the UMCP College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. 

Magidson is an associate professor in the UMCP Department of Psychology; director of the UMCP Center for Substance Use, Addiction, and Health Research; and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM).

“This award is particularly meaningful to me both personally and professionally as it highlights work and people I care about tremendously,” said Magidson. “My goal as Director of CESAR is to foster collaboration for addiction research across UMD campuses, so I am appreciative of this MPower award to support opportunities for hiring joint faculty and staff. I also aim to continue to bridge CESAR and the School of Medicine’s newly launched Kahlert Institute of Addiction Medicine.

In partnership with UMSOM, Magidson is leading several studies funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative. Though serving individuals from different geographic areas—bustling Baltimore, Md. versus the more rural Caroline County, Md.—those NIH HEAL studies are centered on testing the effectiveness of an evidence-based intervention, called “behavioral activation,” when it is delivered by individuals with lived experience with SUD. 

Magidson’s Caroline County study is also testing the impact of this approach when made accessible via a mobile treatment unit van

“When I first joined the faculty at UMCP in January of 2018, the relationships I began to cultivate with UMB faculty were some of the most collaborative, welcoming partnerships I’ve experienced professionally. The providers and team members I work with at UMB are inspirational, and together we’ve been able to develop new innovative care models and truly complementary, collaborative partnerships,” said Magidson. “I really believe that together, we can continue to tackle some of the biggest gaps in addiction and mental health care in underserved communities globally.”

Magidson’s Maryland work has roots in her earlier research projects, which were focused on training lay people in the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa to better support one another when healthcare is hard to come by. 

Magidson recently returned to Africa to help launch a new NIH-funded project in collaboration with the University of Cape Town called “Project Khanya.” Similar to the SUD projects she’s leading in Baltimore and Caroline County, Md., Project Khayna uses peers and behavioral activation to help individuals struggling with SUD and HIV. 

Magidson is leading two other NIH-funded projects in Cape Town: One on how to improve engagement in HIV care by reducing community health worker stigma around SUD and mental health, and another on how a peer recovery coach model, stemming from work she has done in Maryland, might relatedly reduce substance use stigma and improve patient engagement in HIV care. 

“We are enormously proud of the important work that Dr. Magidson is doing to address opioid addiction in Maryland, and across the world,” said Michael Dougherty, professor and chair of the UMCP Department of Psychology. 

Magidson is the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences’ second MPower Professor. Joseph Richardson—co-director of PROGRESS (Prevent Gun Violence: Research, Empowerment, Strategies and Solutions) and professor of African-American studies, medical anthropology and epidemiology—was named an inaugural MPower Professor in 2021.

“Our college is thrilled to be able to say that Jessica is among its many talented faculty members, not to mention its second MPower Professor,” added Dean Rivera. “We are proud to support her in her current and future work.”