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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 11/28/05
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Study Seeks to Improve How Primary-Care Providers Treat Depression

The UC College of Nursing has received a three-year, $621,675 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for a study that could improve the way primary-care providers recognize and manage depression.

More than 19 million Americans suffer from depression, according to the NIMH, and of those who seek help, more than half turn to their primary-care (or family) physician. Research shows, however, that primary-care physicians fail to recognize depression in nearly half their patients, and don’t provide adequate treatment for more than two-thirds of their diagnosed patients.

UC researchers hope to change that by studying depression in primary-care settings and developing long-term interventions.

Over the past 20 years, says Seong-yi Baik, PhD, assistant professor in the College of Nursing, efforts have been made to increase the ability of primary-care physicians to recognize and manage depression. Recent research has shown, however, that improvements don’t have a lasting effect, probably because data was gathered on variables that influence depression care, without really understanding how those variables actually affect everyday clinical practice.

“What’s different about our study is that we’ll attempt to understand depression care from the perspective of primary-care physicians and their patients,” explains Dr. Baik. “We believe systematic changes are more sustainable when they make sense to both groups.”

This is Dr. Baik’s second study on depression care. She previously explored primary-care providers’ responses to patients who complain of symptoms that might indicate depression. She found that the likelihood of an accurate, timely diagnosis is highly influenced by conditions within each physician’s practice, including the physician’s familiarity with the patient, general clinical experience, and time spent with a patient.

“I hope we’ll learn how depression is actually treated in primary-care practices,” says Dr. Baik “This will help us tailor interventions that make sense to physicians.

“I learned from my previous study that doctors may recognize symptoms of depression in their patients and not pursue it for various reasons, including not feeling comfortable dealing with emotions,” she says. “We need to help doctors with this, which may require us to intervene as early as their initial medical education.”

“This kind of grant is a perfect example of one of our goals at UC—helping the community through our research,” says College of Nursing dean Andrea Lindell, DNSc. “Recognition and management of depression is a critical need, and this research is a first step in designing quality improvement interventions that are feasible and sustainable in primary-care practice.”

Dr. Baik and her interdisciplinary research team, which includes co-investigators Jeffrey Susman, MD, chair of family medicine, C. Jeffrey Jacobson Jr., PhD, and Jean Anthony, PhD, will study about 70 providers (general internists, family physicians and nurse practitioners) in 40–45 practices throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Providers interested in participating in the study can contact Dr. Baik at (513) 558-5219 or, or project director Emily Meyer at (513) 558-2969 or

Founded in 1889, UC College of Nursing was the first school in the country to offer a baccalaureate program in nursing and received the first endowment ever given to a nursing program. In 2002 the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredited the college for a 10-year period, distinguishing it with 71 years of continuous accreditation.

The college currently has over 800 students, including undergraduate, graduate and PhD candidates, making it the 12th largest nursing school in the United States in terms of student and faculty, according to U.S.News & World Report. The college also ranks in the top 6 percent nationally in research funding.

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