Not lengthy after incomes her Ph.D. in sociology and dropping her transient first job with a software program startup that shut down in a single day, Rachel Volberg took an opportunity – on playing research, an almost nonexistent area.
Thirty-five years later, Volberg, analysis professor within the College of Massachusetts Amherst Faculty of Public Well being and Well being Sciences, has obtained the 2021 Lifetime Analysis Award from the Nationwide Council on Drawback Playing. The group’s board of administrators voted unanimously to confer the distinction after Volberg was nominated by Marlene Warner, govt director of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Well being.
“This award for analysis is just bestowed in distinctive instances and circumstances, to people who exemplify no less than 20 years of remedy on behalf of drawback gamblers,” the nationwide council states. It is given “to honor an individual for distinctive long-standing achievement within the area of analysis to help drawback gamblers and their households.”
Volberg’s award was introduced Tuesday, July 20, on the council’s annual nationwide convention, which was held nearly. Subsequent yr, Volberg will give a keynote speak on the council’s thirty sixth nationwide convention in Boston. Three different Massachusetts organizations or people had been additionally acknowledged on the awards ceremony, which “speaks to the extent of gambling-related work that’s occurring in Massachusetts,” Volberg says.
The Massachusetts Gaming Fee’s Enrique Zuniga was honored with the Service Award, the Massachusetts Council of Gaming and Well being’s Linh Ho obtained the Joanna Franklin Annual Award for Direct Service and Plainridge Park On line casino was acknowledged with the Company Publication Award.
Keith Whyte, govt director of the council, advised the convention attendees throughout the awards ceremony that at one level, Volberg had performed the vast majority of drawback playing research globally. In a letter supporting Volberg’s nomination, Dr. Marc Potenza, professor of psychiatry and director of the Yale Heart of Excellence in Playing, referred to as Volberg a “world-leading epidemiological researcher on this space. Dr. Volberg has made a number of essential contributions to the sphere of playing analysis and is taken into account a number one knowledgeable on the epidemiology of playing dysfunction.”
For the previous seven years, Volberg has been main unprecedented analysis in regards to the introduction of casinos in Massachusetts, funded by the Massachusetts Gaming Fee. This complete collection of research, referred to as SEIGMA (Social and Financial Impacts of Playing in Massachusetts), is believed to be the primary of its sort on this planet.
This award is so well-deserved, and we’re so happy with her accomplishments. As a analysis professor who has printed extensively on this space, her contributions and influence to our college and the sphere have been substantial.”
Anna Maria Siega-Riz, Dean, Faculty of Public Well being and Well being Sciences
Volberg, whose first job within the area was to judge two remedy packages for drawback gamblers in New York state, discovered an astonishing dearth of analysis on the subject. In 1988, she was the primary investigator to obtain funding from the Nationwide Institutes of Well being (NIH) to look at the prevalence of drawback playing within the U.S.
Volberg grew to become recognized for her work on playing prevalence surveys. As a speedy growth of authorized business playing occurred around the globe, together with lotteries, casinos, digital playing machines and on-line playing, she had an increasing number of alternatives to conduct prevalence surveys.
“However I additionally had sturdy pursuits in how one can finest measure these constructs, within the pure course or etiology of the dysfunction, and within the broader social and financial impacts of playing legalization,” she stated in accepting her award on the digital convention. “I’ve been lucky to have discovered alternatives to discover all of those areas and extra over the previous 35 years.”
Along with her work in Massachusetts, Volberg is a part of analysis groups conducting large-scale research in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden to know how folks transition into and out of playing and drawback playing.
Though Volberg by no means imagined she would change into a famend playing researcher, the burgeoning area captivated and challenged her. “For those who had advised me in 1985 that I’d be in my 60s and nonetheless doing playing analysis, I might have laughed in your face,” she says. “However there was all the time one thing intriguing that was coming alongside – new methods to conduct surveys and measure playing issues. Studying to do that effectively was an enormous problem.”
Regardless of the lifetime award, Volberg has no plans to decelerate. “I nonetheless have a lot work to do,” she says.
College of Massachusetts Amherst