Public Release: 

Dr. Francis White, FUHS/CMS, receives MERIT Award

Dr. Francis J. White, Finch University of Health Sciences/The Chicago Medical School, receives MERIT Award for his research on the neuropsychopharmacology of cocaine abuse

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

National Institute on Drug Abuse award offers 10 years of support and honors outstanding research.

NORTH CHICAGO, ILL. (October 15, 2002) ¾ Francis J. White, Ph.D., has devoted more than 25 years to the study of psychology and pharmacology, the synthesis of these two disciplines being neuropsychopharmacology: the science of drug-behavior relationships. As Professor and Chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and the Director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory at Finch University of Health Sciences/The Chicago Medical School (FUHS/CMS), Dr. White has been instrumental in furthering the study of the neurobiology of dopamine systems. In honor of his outstanding work, Dr. White has been awarded a Method to Extend Research In Time (MERIT) Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for his research grant application entitled "Cocaine and Mesolimbic Dopamine Electrophysiology."

The objective of the MERIT program is to provide long-term support to investigators whose research competence and productivity are deemed "distinctly superior" and who are considered likely to continue to perform in an "outstanding manner." According to Glen R. Hanson, Ph.D., D.D.S., Acting Director of NIDA, "It is hoped that the provision of long-term, stable support will foster [Dr. White's] continued creativity and lessen administrative burdens associated with preparation and submission of regular research grant applications."

Upon receiving the award, Dr. White expressed gratitude and enthusiasm, saying that, "I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am. I am excited not just for myself, but also for my colleagues and team members, and Finch University as a whole. Recently, research programs throughout the Chicago Medical School have increased substantially and FUHS/CMS is truly 'on the map' in terms of cutting-edge medical research."

The implications of such an award are not lost on medical professionals who must devote so much of their time to grant-writing efforts and the fear of dwindling funding. The MERIT Award provides up to 10 years of financial support for continued research, offering the prospects of breakthrough scientific studies and increased job security.

In the most general terms, the primary objective of the research conducted within the Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory at FUHS/CMS is to understand the neurobiology of midbrain dopamine neurons, as well as their target neurons within the forebrain. The theme is to understand how these neurons, and the systems in which they operate, are involved in the mechanisms of action of drugs of abuse and psychotherapeutic drugs. In the past few years, the program has placed emphasis on: (1) defining the behavioral consequences of repeated administration of cocaine and withdrawal from cocaine dependence in animal models, (2) correlating those behavioral alterations with specific neuroadaptations occurring in dopamine and related neuronal systems, (3) identifying the roles of dopamine receptor subtypes in specific functions mediated by the dopamine systems, and (4) exploring the mechanisms of dopamine receptor interactions and how they regulate neuronal activity under normal and abnormal conditions.

The study of dopamine systems in terms of cocaine abuse allows researchers to learn not only how dopamine functions as the "major player" in addiction and how cells are affected by long-term exposure to cocaine, but also how it might be possible to someday reverse the cellular changes that are responsible for addiction. While medical experts have long known that dopamine is an "evolutionarily important system for the ability to experience pleasure," according to Dr. White, they have not fully understood how changes to the dopaminergic systems might be acting to maintain continued drug abuse in addicts, and how doctors might be able to counteract those systemic changes to curb addiction. Dr. White explained, "I'm very pleased by how clinically relevant my research has become."

Dr. White also serves as a senior editor of the Journal of Neuroscience, the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. In his personal life, Dr. White is an avid golfer and the proud father of two girls.


The rapidly expanding Finch University of Health Sciences/The Chicago Medical School is situated on a 90-acre campus on Green Bay Road, bordering Lake Bluff and North Chicago, IL. The University encompasses: The Chicago Medical School, The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, The School of Related Health Sciences, and The Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine.

Kathleen Peterson, Director of Communications
Finch University of Health Sciences/
The Chicago Medical School
3333 Green Bay Road
North Chicago, IL 60064
Fax: 847-578-8643

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