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$7.5 million awarded to UMMC to research violence in Jackson

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Dr. Lei Zhang, center, joined by co-investigators on the VIP program, left, and intimate partner violence initiative, right. Pictured are, front row, from left, Dr. Bill Hillegass, Vearrier, Zhang, Dr. Erin Dehon and Dr. Andrew Voluse. Back row, from left, are Dr. Carl Mangum, Kutcher, Dr. Masoumeh Karimi and Dr. Tara Price.

A team of doctors from the University of Mississippi Medical Center has been awarded millions of dollars to research the causes and ways to reduce violence.

Kobee Vance

$7.5 million awarded to UMMC to research violence in Jackson


Two grants totaling $7.5 million are being awarded to UMMC for research projects focused on gun and domestic violence. The City of Jackson has one of the highest rates of violence in the nation, and researchers say it is a key location for better understanding these issues. Dr. Lei Zhang is a professor and associate dean for research and scholarship in the School of Nursing. He says the studies will first examine the causes of violence, then explore solutions.

“For example,” says Dr. Zhang, “We may assess some economic distress related to housing instability related to the adverse childhood experience, and also related to their mental health.”

One of the studies will focus on the main determinants that cause the state’s high rate of domestic violence, and psychologists say they are interested in seeing what interventions could be enacted to protect victims. The other will be a comprehensive initiative between the hospital, community engagement partners and mental health experts on researching gun violence. Dr. Laura Vearrier works in emergency medicine and will be studying how early interventions with victims of gun violence can prevent future trauma.

“And the ultimate goal of that is to decrease firearm injuries, decrease the number of victims we’re seeing in the emergency department, decrease recidivism, and there are a lot of downstream effects to that,” says Dr. Vearrier. “So if we can decrease gun violence then we can decrease all the aftermath that happens with that.”

Jackson has the highest firearm mortality rate in the nation, and researchers say the findings of the multi-year research could be universally beneficial.