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Rachel Tomko PhD

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Rank
  • Assistant Professor
College
  • College of Medicine
Department
  • Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Academic Focus
  • stress/affect regulation in substance use disorders (SUDs)
  • individual differences in SUD treatment response
  • SUD clinical trial methodology
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Biography

Dr. Tomko received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology (B.S.) from the Pennsylvania State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Missouri. She completed her predoctoral internship and postdoctoral training at the Medical University of South Carolina/Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. She is a faculty member within the Addiction Sciences Division of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Clinically, Dr. Tomko works with adults who struggle with anxiety, depression, stress, or difficulties with emotion regulation. She specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

The overarching goal of Dr. Tomko's research is to improve treatment outcomes for individuals with substance use disorders by identifying which treatments are optimal for a specific individual. Specifically, her research focuses on:

1. Understanding bidirectional associations between negative affect and substance use or risky behaviors in daily life (and how these associations differ by sex, gender, and over the developmental lifespan)

Dr. Tomko’s work focuses on understanding individual differences in factors that maintain substance use (for example, stress/negative affect, impulsivity) with the ultimate goal of personalizing treatment accordingly. Currently, she is conducting an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study with young adults to examine gender differences in the progression of negative affect-related cannabis use.

 

2. Translating traditional substance use disorder clinical trial results into personalized treatment recommendations

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) determine the efficacy of a treatment for a specific population. In collaboration with Dr. Bethany Wolf in Public Health Sciences, Dr. Tomko is currently developing predictive models to translate traditional RCT data for substance use disorders into treatment recommendations for a specific individual.  

 

3. Developing technology and assessments to enhance substance use research, particularly clinical trials

 Dr. Tomko also focuses on improving clinical trial methodology to expedite novel treatment development. She has developed, adapted, and/or validated in-laboratory and ambulatory assessment/EMA techniques that can enhance accuracy of self-report or objectively confirm substance use/medication adherence in the real-world. 

 

Adolescent-focused substance use research:

https://muschealth.org/medical-services/psychiatry/child/youth-collaborative

Smoking-focused research:

https://projectquitsc.com/