Conner Takes Reins from Christiansen to Address Behavioral Health and Tobacco Use

Karen Conner
Karen Conner

UW-CTRI Associate Researcher Karen Conner is managing the Wisconsin Nicotine Treatment Integration Project (WiNTiP), which works to help behavioral health patients quit using tobacco.

She has taken over for UW-CTRI Distinguished Researcher Dr. Bruce Christiansen, who is retiring. Bruce has served at UW-CTRI for 15 years. His work empowered communities who are most vulnerable to break free from tobacco use. For these contributions, Christiansen was the 2017 recipient of the national C. Everett Koop Unsung Hero award.

Dr. Bruce Christiansen receives the national Koop Unsung Hero Award
Dr. Bruce Christiansen receives the national Koop Unsung Hero Award

“I am so proud to have worked with Bruce to create systems change and help so many people to quit tobacco use,” said UW-CTRI Director Dr. Michael Fiore. “We all are fortunate to have benefited from working with Bruce. Now, we’re excited to collaborate with Karen on WiNTiP and other projects.”

Conner is the project manager for the COVID EHR Cohort at the University of Wisconsin (CEC-UW), which is examining data from health systems across the country to learn about COVID and tobacco use.

Conner has spent her entire career working to reduce tobacco use among populations most negatively impacted by commercial tobacco. She spent the first eight years of her career in Alaska working with state and tribal health organizations to develop and implement systems to better address tobacco use.

Since then, she has worked for a local health department in Minnesota and for the State of Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, where she provided training and technical assistance to communities to improve health outcomes and reduce health-related disparities.

Conner is originally from Iowa. She earned her master’s degree in public health from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Conner has served on the WINTIP Committee for four years. During that time, Christiansen, Conner, Managing Consultant David “Mac” Macmaster and the rest of the committee have accomplished many things, including working with mini grantees, creating online trainings like the Bucket Approach, offering in-person trainings, addressing changes to the Chapter 75 professional codes, and creating a robust website.

“What Bruce has done during the past 15 years to reduce tobacco use among the mental health and substance abuse communities is absolutely incredible,” Conner said. “I’m delighted to continue what he started. Working with health and behavioral health systems to better address tobacco use is where I started my career. Being able to circle back and do this work in Wisconsin is exciting.”