Social Intervention Group | SIG

Columbia School of Social Work

What We Do
Who We Are


Past News

Dr. Susan Sloan Witte, Columbia University and Dr. Altantsetseg Batsukh, Mongolia Ministry of Health, Present "Intimate Partner Violence, Childhood Sexual Abuse and HIV/STI Risks Among Women Engaged in Sex Work in Mongolia"


November 5, 2009—Susan Witte, PhD, and Altantsetseg Batsukh, MD, MSW, co-PIs on the Women’s Wellness Project, presented a paper at the American Center for Mongolian Studies. The presentation discussed baseline findings from the Women’s Wellness Study on experiences of trauma and violence and its association with women’s sexual risk-taking behavior. The data comes from the first survey in Mongolia to examine the prevalence of intimate partner violence and childhood sexual abuse among sex workers. The strength of the association between sexual risk behaviors, intimate partner violence and childhood sexual abuse suggest that there is a critical need for trauma-based support services for this population. For more information, visit the Global Health Research Center of Central Asia website.

Back to Top

Mongolia Women's Wellness Study Findings Presented in Ulaanbaatar


Susan Witte, PhD (SIG), Marion Riedel, PhD (Faculty Affiliate), Aira Toivgoo, PhD (Project Director), and Altantsetseg Batsukh, MD, MSW (GHRCCA Staff) presented the findings of the Women's Wellness Project--a two-year NIAAA-funded randomized clinical trial testing the efficacy of a gender-specific HIV intervention for women who are engaged in sex work and who have a history of alcohol abuse. The study was implemented in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, enrolling 166 women who were assigned to one of three study conditions. The presentation included 40 key stakeholders from diverse organizational settings who actively participated in a formal discussion of findings, implications and next critical steps for future collaborative research on HIV/STI, alcohol abuse, and other health prevention issues affecting women and their families in Mongolia. A more formal Community Collaborative Research Board (CCRB) is being initiated by the Wellspring NGO to continue this important research and program development. For more information, visit the Global Health Research Center of Central Asia website.

Back to Top

Dr. Elwin Wu Presents at the National HIV Conference


At the 2009 National HIV Prevention Conference, Dr. Elwin Wu presented an overview of the adaptation process undertaken as part of a CDC-funded study to adapt a couples-based HIV preventive intervention originally for heterosexual couples for a new target population of methamphetamine-involved, African American men who have sex with men (MSM). The presentation included a detailed description of the integration of worldviews and lived experiences of methamphetamine-involved African American MSM couples into a structured intervention to be pilot tested with couples from the target population. Click here for more information about this study.

Back to Top

Dr. Susan Witte Presents During Seminar on International Research Collaborations


On Wednesday, September 10th, Dr. Susan Witte presented at a seminar on International research collaborations, hosted by the CU Morningside Institutional Review Board.  The presentation focused on the challenges in developing and sustaining new research projects involving human subjects in international settings.  The current randomized clinical trial testing of an HIV/STI prevention intervention for sex workers in Mongolia was highlighted as a case example.

Back to Top

Dr. Nabila El-Bassel Awarded $3.5 Million 5-Year Grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse


Dr. Nabila El-Bassel and her research team were awarded a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to test the efficacy of a couples-based HIV/STI intervention for injection drug users (IDUs) in Kazakhstan, Central Asia. For more information about this and other studies, visit the Global Health Research Center of Central Asia online at

Back to Top

SIG Welcomes New Student Interns

This September SIG welcomed a new cohort of MSW students to serve as interns for the 2008 academic year. The new interns represent the Social Work method areas of Social Enterprise Administration (SEA), Policy (POL), and Advanced Generalist Practice & Programming (AGPP), and specialize in either Contemporary Social Issues (CSI) or International (INT) fields of practice.

Pictured below (in order from the left) are the new SIG interns: Monica Stauffer (AGPP, CSI), Sholpan Primbetova (POL, INT), Jordan White (AGPP, CSI), Angela Parcesepe (POL, INT), and Elmira Imambakieva (SEA, CSI). We are so excited for the energy, hard work and enthusiasm they bring to the SIG family!

New Interns

Back to Top

HIV Intervention Science Training Program Holds 2008 Summer Training Institute

This June the HISTP welcomed the first and second cohorts of training fellows, their primary and secondary mentors, members of the Scientific Advisory Board, and the Executive Board to the 2008 HISTP Summer Training Institute at the Columbia University School of Social Work. A number of research scholars from across the country were invited to share their expertise with attendees during the week-long institute, including Dr. Carrie Randall, Dr. Gloria Miele, Dr. Scarlett Bellamy, Dr. Susan Witte, Dr. Carballo-Diéguez, Dr. Rafael Díaz, Dr. David Stoff, Dr. Vicki Lens, and Dr. Marianne Yoshioka. The Scientific Advisory Board met to lend valuable guidance to the director's board; Dr. Cynthia Gómez delivered an inspiring keynote address during the first annual Training Institute Luncheon; and both cohorts of training fellows had an opportunity to present their pilot studies and receive feedback from their peers, mentors, and other Columbia University faculty and research scholars.

For more information about the HIV Intervention Science Training Program for Racial/Ethnic Minority New Investigators, visit the HISTP Commons at

Back to Top

Visit to Central Asia

The Social Intervention Group’s Dr. Nabila El-Bassel and Louisa Gilbert and Dr. Geraldine Downey from CU’s Dept. of Psychology traveled to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to implement the introduction of the CU Global Health Research Center for Central Asia. The CU team met with government officials, national and international NGOs and department heads at several universities. In Kazakhstan, the team met with the Ministries of Health, Education, and Science and obtained full endorsement for the Center. The team also met with representative from USAID, World Bank, WHO, UNICEF, as well as other international local NGOs.  The team made presentations at Al-Farabi University in Almaty and Eurasia University in Astana, Kazakhstan where faculty at these universities expressed strong interest in collaboration with the Global Health Research Center.

In Kyrgyzstan, the CU team met with the Vice Ministry of Health and international and local NGOs in Bishkek and Osh, all of which endorsed the CU Global Health Research Center.

Back to Top

Global Health Research Center for Central Asia

The Global Health Research Center for Central Asia was recently established in Almaty, Kazakhstan by SIG and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP). The Center, which focuses on regional interdisciplinary research on global health, serves Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Funding for this Center was provided by CU and private foundations. The Center brings leading multidisciplinary, global health experts together and builds crosscutting partnerships among governments, NGOs, and academic institutions in Central Asia. The Center aims to strengthen the capacity of regional institutions and investigators to conduct rigorous global health research.  The Center has three core activities: (1) Research and Training (2) Translation of Research into Practice and Policy and (3) Technical Assistance – Research Methods and Data Analysis Consultation. The Center is led by a team of top multidisciplinary experts on HIV and global health from the region and Columbia University.  Dr. Assel Terlikbayeva directs the Center at our location in Almaty, Kazakhstan and Danil Nikitin directs the Center offices in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The Center’s aims are to:

  • Develop and scale up scientifically-based prevention interventions that may be delivered in low resource settings in Central Asia
  • Advance effective regional health policies and programs that will improve early detection and treatment of global health problems in Central Asia

These aims will be accomplished through the Center’s core activities, which are outlined below.

Research and Training

  • Build a sustainable regional infrastructure and scientific capacity to conduct rigorous research that will inform policies and programs to reverse the tide of HIV/AIDS and other global health problems in Central Asia.
  • Increase the number of research scientists, faculty, and PhD and post doctoral students in the region who are able to conduct epidemiological, behavioral and social science research on global health issues in Central Asia.  These local researchers will emerge as recognized leaders and have the capacity to compete for funding from NIH and other organizations.
  • Provide faculty and researcher affiliates of the Center with technical assistance, consultation and administrative support for funded research that will advance knowledge on global health issues in the region.

Translation of Research into Effective Programs and Policy:

  • Translate research into prevention and treatment programs, using proven methods of dissemination and “scaling up” of effective health interventions in different low resource, community based settings.
  • Support multidisciplinary advocacy efforts to translate research into policies that result in reducing health disparities and expanding access to effective prevention, treatment and care for those affected by HIV/AIDS, HCV and STIs.

Technical Assistance

  • The Center will provide technical assistance on global health research methods and data analysis to government, private and NGO organizations in Central Asia.

Back to Top

Women and Trauma, 2003-2007

The Women and Trauma Study is a NIDA, Clinical Trials Network funded national multi-site randomized clinical trial testing the effectiveness of Seeking Safety, an integrated behavioral intervention for women with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder, in seven community-based substance abuse treatment programs.  Data collection was completed for this study in February 2007.  The study enrolled 353 women in approximately 20-months. Dr. Hien, the PI of the Women and Trauma Study, will present primary outcome findings to the CTN Steering Committee in September 2007.  Publications and presentations from this study can be found on the CTN Library website:

Back to Top

Drs. Nabila El-Bassel and Elwin Wu Receive a $1.4 Million Grant from NIMH to Establish Racial/Ethnic Minority Scientist Training Program

April, 2007--Drs. El-Bassel and Wu received a National Institute of Mental Health grant to establish a 3-year training program aimed at increasing research and ethnic minority (REM) investigators in HIV intervention science research.  The HIV Intervention Science Training Program for Racial/Ethnic Minority Investigators (HISTP) will be located at CUSSW’s Social Intervention Group (SIG), but will include collaboration with other prominent Columbia Centers, including the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at the New York Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia Center for Homelessness Prevention Studies.  In addition to El-Bassel, Wu and colleagues at Columbia, the HISTP is supported by a network of leading HIV scientific advisors and mentors across country from over a dozen universities.  The advisors and mentors are actively involved in the development of the program and in the direct training and support of the trainees.

REM populations are disproportionately represented amongst those living with HIV/AIDS, yet REM scientists trained as HIV/AIDS researchers are vastly under-represented. The HISTP mission is to facilitate the growth and development of a cadre of REM scientists who will focus their research upon HIV-related health disparities in HIV/AIDS and co-occurring mental health disorders. We seek to promote REM scientists to increase contributions to the empirical knowledge base on the design of contextually and culturally congruent interventions, through training, mentoring, and networking with a collective of senior REM scientists in the fields of HIV/AIDS, health disparities, and mental health and substance comorbidities.  Specifically, 12 trainees will be selected over the next three years to receive intensive and specialized mentorship, including pilot funding and access to a multitude of resources and expert consultation.  The first cohort of trainees will be selected in the summer of 2007.

For more information about the HIV Intervention Science Training Program for Racial/Ethnic Minority Investigators, email or call the Program Coordinator, Aimee Campbell, at 212-851-2417.

Back to Top

Connect With Pride: Finding a New Avenue for HIV Prevention Among MSM at High Risk for HIV/STI

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded a 2 year grant for SIG to collaborate with the Harm Reduction Coalition to develop and pilot test an innovative HIV and sexually transmitted infection (HIV/STI) preventive intervention for African American men who have sex with men (MSM). Following a decrease in HIV incidence in the U.S. during the earlier decades of the epidemic, HIV incidence has plateaued in more recent years.  The limited decrease in HIV incidence during recent years highlights a need for continued vigilance as well as novel preventive intervention programs. Male-to-male sexual contact continues to represent the major conduit of HIV transmission. The need for continued innovation in HIV prevention for MSM is underscored with the recent “rebound” in the proportion of new cases of HIV infection among MSM. Furthermore, African Americans represent 12-13% of the population in the U.S., yet they account for about half of recent, new HIV infections, and African Americans represent one-third of the cases of MSM living with HIV/AIDS.

This project will adapt Project Connect--an existing, theoretically-driven, and demonstrated efficacious couple-based HIV/STI preventive intervention that was designed by SIG researchers for mixed-gender (i.e., a male and female) couples--and tailor it for African American, methamphetamine-involved male couples. This study will be carried out in two phases. Year 1 focuses on the developmental activities to adapt and refine the existing, manualized Connect intervention in a systematic manner using focus groups. Year 2 involves a pilot test of the revised intervention with in order to obtain preliminary estimates of the efficacy of the intervention. If successful, this study would constitute a strong foundation for future, larger-scale studies that would more rigorously assess the efficacy of the revised intervention in reducing HIV transmission risk among a high risk population.

Back to Top

Asian Domestic Violence Conference

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement identified domestic violence as one of the most serious problems facing the Asian immigrant community. Although no systematic data collection is available to quantify severity of intimate partner violence (IPV) in the Asian community, there is evidence suggesting that Asians are over-represented in IPV fatalities (as reported by the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence, the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, and Santa Clara County Death Review Committee).

Drs. Hien and Yoshioka (CUSSW), along with Drs. Jin and Chang of the Department of Psychology, New School for Social Research, hosted a 1-day conference entitled “Culture-Specific Interventions for Asian Batterers” on Friday, November 10, 2006. The event was sponsored by the CUSSW Social Intervention Group’s Center for Intervention and Prevention Research on HIV and Drug Abuse. Drs. Doris Chang, K. Daniel O’Leary (State University of New York, Stony Brook), Marianne Yoshioka, and David Adams (Emerge) presented on various topics related to applying empirically based and culturally specific interventions for Asian batterers. Speakers reviewed the current “state of the art” on empirically supported approaches and relevant theoretical models for working with male batterers in general, epidemiological data, and experiences with current community-based practices on domestic violence within Asian and Pacific Islander American communities.  About 50 participants, including researchers, practitioners and students with a special interest in domestic violence in Asian and Pacific Islander American families, attended. Over a “working” lunch, participants shared their diverse perspectives in moderated small group discussions of barriers to implementing interventions with this subgroup which will also afford networking opportunities.

Back to Top

Norweigan Psychiatrists PTSD/SUD Training

On June 16, 2006, Columbia University School of Social Work, Social Intervention Group and Women’s Health Project Treatment & Research Center at St. Luke’s\Roosevelt Hospital Center, hosted a 1-day conference for 35 visiting Norwegian psychiatrists on the current advances in the field of behavioral treatment for women with trauma-focused disorders and PTSD. The workshop covered conceptual models and historical approaches to treatment, as well as a section on diagnostic issues with PTSD and Complex Trauma comorbidity. Psychotherapeutic treatment approaches emphasizing manualized cognitive behavioral therapies were also presented.

Back to Top