Member since: 1990. Student affiliate since 1979
Occupation: Professor of psychology and oncologic sciences at the University of South Florida and director of the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa.
Calling it quits: At the Moffitt center, Brandon studies how to help people who quit smoking stay the course. Studies show that 95 percent of self-directed quitters relapse within one year, and even those who take advantage of a treatment program relapse 60 percent to 80 percent of the time. To boost quitters’ success rates, Brandon has condensed smoking-cessation treatment into self-help booklets. His “Forever Free” materials reduce quitters’ relapse rates by up to two-thirds, according to his research, which has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the American Cancer Society and others. As a result, NCI’s Smokefree.gov Web site as well as hospitals and health departments nationwide use the booklets.
Brandon, who is past president of Div. 50 (Addictions), is also looking at ways to help women who quit smoking during pregnancy prevent a postpartum relapse because secondhand smoke might be even worse for a baby than smoking during pregnancy. “Social support often drops off then,” he says. “Throw in the typical weight concerns during this period, and you’ve got a perfect storm for smoking relapse.”
A pioneering spirit: Brandon became interested in smoking-cessation research in the early ’80s as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, before tobacco addiction was considered a serious problem. “I was asked once, ‘Why not work on a real addiction?’” he says.
He can’t imagine a more rewarding career path. “You have an immediate benefit on people’s lives,” he says. “Within a few weeks of quitting, you see people physically looking healthier, with color returning to their faces and telling you that they can once again walk up stairs without getting winded.”
A perfect complement: Brandon’s wife, Karen Obremski Brandon, PhD, does alcohol addiction research as the director of assessment for the Alcohol and Substance Use Research Institute at USF. They have a 13-year-old daughter, Clara. “She isn’t smoking or drinking, and we hope that continues,” says Brandon.
Scaly neighbors: Brandon relaxes by spending time outdoors. He lives on a 50-acre lake, where he and his family can canoe or kayak anytime. He also canoes on the Hillsborough River, near the USF campus. “On a good day you can pass dozens of alligators,” he says, adding that they tend to harmlessly sink away under the water when people paddle by. In fact, alligators are only responsible for about one death a year in his state. “Tobacco, which kills about 30,000 Floridians each year, is a much bigger problem.”
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