By Paul Roman
I grew up in a very small town between the St. Lawrence River and the Adirondack Mountains, experiencing many events of technology transfer during my upbringing. My grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe, and the transformative experiences of becoming American extended into my generation.
Big work horses tilled the land on my grandmother’s farm and as a little boy I was terrified by the Oliver Cletrac which was bought to replace the horses. Sadly, the Cletrac was far more ready to plow 60 acres in a week than the strongest team could do. No one liked the Cletrac, particularly those huge gentle workhorses whose fate we need not consider. I later learned to lever-steer the Cletrac, another technique pretty much lost to history, along with knowing how to stick-shift on the steering column.
I ended up attracted to the study of agriculture at Cornell University, but headed down the path of becoming a rural sociologist in undergraduate school. It was here that I learned of the work of an incredible assistant professor at Ohio State who was out-publishing everyone, and doing very exciting work. His name was Everett Rogers. Ironically, it was not until Bill Miller invited me to his International Conference on Treatment of Addictive Behaviors (ICTAB) in Heidelberg in 2004 that I actually had my first (and wonderful) face to face meeting with Ev Rogers, who had also been invited as a plenary speaker.
I ended up in graduate school at Cornell, and was re-invented into an industrial and labor relations scholar, focused on the behavior of work organizations. My mentor was Harrison M. Trice, who must be credited as the intellectual founder of the broad movement to address alcohol problems in the workplace, a specialty that later morphed into Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). During this era, I take great pleasure in telling that I was a face-to-face friend of Bill W., and our friendship offered opportunities to debate the topic of Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT). This introduction came through Harry Trice, who was then a non-AA trustee of AA. He and I had some great communication over his partly successful introduction of Niacin Therapy amongst AA members. Therein lies a wonderful tale of technology transfer.
In the following decades, partly in collaboration with Harry Trice and later in collaboration with Terry Blum, I was involved in extensive research on designing and redesigning EAPs and other workplace interventions for substance abuse. This work dealt with all of the complexities of technology transfer in this specialty. It also involved a massive number of actors, such that some form of EAP is found today in 60 percent of American workplaces. It is a long and complicated story spanning several decades and marked by numerous setbacks and disappointments. I hope to be able to share some of the lessons from all that work with readers of The Bridge.
Right now I’ve been fortunate to have been supported by several decades of NIH and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation research grants. These have provided the University of Georgia Center for Research on Behavioral Health and Human Services Delivery with all sorts of data that document how far we have come to be a part of the national health care system
Giving me the opportunity to be Editor of The Bridge is another great opportunity and challenge. This senior citizen will bring my reflections to The Bridge, which I hope can highlight my experiences and yours, in growing up in the substance abuse treatment field. The goal of this e-journal is interchange, interaction, and argument over what might be right or wrong.