Nancy Petry: Woman of Innovation

Nancy Petry, Ph.D., winner of the Connecticut Technology Council's Women of Innovation Award for Research Innovation and Leadership. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health Photo).
Nancy Petry, Ph.D., winner of the Connecticut Technology Council's Women of Innovation Award for Research Innovation and Leadership. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health Photo).
Nancy Petry, Ph.D., winner of the Connecticut Technology Council’s Women of Innovation Award for Research Innovation and Leadership. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)

Nancy Petry, whose research on behavioral treatments for addictive disorders has led to an intervention used with patients throughout the VA system, is this year’s winner of the Connecticut Technology Council’s Women of Innovation Award for Research Innovation and Leadership.

“To be recognized for my work in such a supportive atmosphere by an organization like the Connecticut Technology Council is wonderful” says Petry. “I am honored to have been selected as the 2017 Woman of Innovation from a group of truly remarkable researchers, mentors, and community and business leaders.”

This marks the fourth time in the 13-year history of the Women of Innovation Awards that a member of the UConn Health faculty has been so honored.

Associate professor of reconstructive sciences Liisa Kuhn won in 2009, and Dr. Marja Hurley, professor of medicine and orthopaedic surgery, won in 2010, both in the category of Academic Innovation and Leadership.

“We are thrilled that the Connecticut Technology Council has recognized Dr. Petry – one of UConn Health’s most innovative researchers – for her significant contributions to her field,” said Jeff Seemann, vice president for research at UConn and UConn Health. “Honors such as these speak to the preeminence of research and innovation taking place every day at UConn and UConn Health. This research benefits not only our students and the scientific community, but also the economic health of our state and the physical health of our society.”

Petry says what was most impressive to her about the Women of Innovation Award experience was learning about the achievements of the other innovators she met at the March 29 ceremony.

“What these scientists of all ages have accomplished is really remarkable. From founding green energy startups to developing treatments for brain damage – these women are having an immediate impact in a variety of fields. It is truly inspiring to be in the company of such talented people, regardless of the fact that they are women.”

Since becoming a faculty member at UConn Health in 1996, Petry has been awarded more than $31 million dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her research has focused on improving patient adherence across a number of conditions, including some highly stigmatized ones like substance abuse and pathological gambling. This led to one of her most notable achievements – the development of a behavior modification approach to treat addiction that has been widely adopted throughout the U.S., as well as in Europe and Asia.

Much of her research on contingency management treatments for substance use disorders is conducted at community-based treatment centers throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts.

She says she is committed to this work because while drug therapies and medical devices can substantially improve outcomes, patients need to use them as prescribed to have the greatest impact.

“As a scientist, it is exciting to see my research translated into solutions for patients, not only for treating addictions, but also to improve patient adherence for other medical conditions.”

In addition to her work at UConn Health, Petry also serves as a consultant and advisor for the NIH and the Veterans Administration and is the editor-in-chief for Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

The Connecticut Technology Council Women of Innovation event also honored Jinbo Bi, associate professor of computer science and engineering.  Dr. Bi is recognized as a world leader in machine learning, and her discoveries have led to 11 patents. Her research focuses on designing innovative approaches to diagnose complex psychiatric and addictive disorders and to enhance personalized treatment.

Three graduate students from UConn and UConn Health were also honored at the event. Manisha Mishra, a Ph.D. candidate from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Deborah Dorcemus, a Ph.D. candidate from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Jun Chen, a Ph.D. candidate also from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, were all recognized as Women in Innovation Finalists in the Collegian Innovation and Leadership category.

Dr. Petry was nominated for the award by UConn Health’s Group of Women in Medicine and Science.