Human services to host Fulbright lecture

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Neuroscientist will describe the dangers of drug use during pregnancy and drug abuse.

By Austin P. Taylor

Fulbright scholar Kate McDonnell-Dowling will discuss neuroscience and addiction at 11:30 a.m. Friday in the performance area on the fourth floor of Moody Learning Center.

The lecture, hosted by the human services program, will focus on the effects drug abuse has on pregnant women and how stress at a young age can lead to ­­addiction.

The lecture is free, but there are a limited number of seats left, said Holly Matthews, administrative services specialist for psychology.

McDonnell-Dowling, a Ph.D. in neuropharmacology from the National University of Ireland, Galway, received a 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar grant to teach at Tufts University in Boston, according to the Council for International Exchange of Scholars website.

The lecture is the work of the Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund. The fund helps campuses host visiting Fulbright scholars. These scholars are meant to promote academic disciplines and cultural understanding.

The fund reached out to Dr. Edwin Bergen, coordinator of the human services program here, said Matthews, who works with Bergen in human services.

“We were contacted because Dr. Bergen continues to be a trailblazer in his field,” Matthews said. “His work with the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium made Fulbright interested in holding a talk here.”

The consortium is an organization dedicated to setting standards for testing substance use treatment and recovery professionals.

The human services program was created for students who want to become licensed chemical dependency counselors. Many of those students are trying to get their lives in order after periods of drug abuse, so the opportunity to bring in someone like McDonnell-Dowling is too good to pass up, Matthews said.

“We’re interested in bringing in a new perspective,” she said. “We hope to show students that addiction looks the same in all cultures, they aren’t the only ones to become victims.”

McDonnell-Dowling’s focus on addiction and its effects on a pregnancy comes from her past experiences abroad.

“I worked at a clinic in Australia while I was abroad,” McDonnell-Dowling said in a phone interview Feb. 27. “I saw pregnant women trying to get help, and babies suffering from withdrawal.”

After returning to the National University of Ireland, Galway. McDonnell-Dowling earned a Ph.D. in neuropharmacology. Since then, her research has been focused on addiction both during pregnancy and a child’s adolescence.

Those two demographics stand to have the most harm done to them by addiction.

“I worked in the maternity ward of a hospital when I was younger,” Matthews said. “I often worked with babies that were suffering from withdrawal symptoms because of their mother’s drug abuse. It was heartbreaking.”

McDonnell-Dowling’s lecture will focus on methamphetamines.

According to an article posted Aug. 12, 2016, on, meth use in Texas is on the rise. Both the Dallas and Houston divisions of the Drug Enforcement Administration have ranked meth as one of the top two drug threats.

“It’s a serious problem within our community,” Matthews said. “Students need to hear about this.”

For more information, call Matthews at 210-486-1267 or email


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