In the News Research

Dr. Jessica Riggs Receives 2024 Emerging Scholar Award

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Dr. Jessica Riggs Honored with 2024 Hiram Fitzgerald Emerging Scholar/Researcher Award for Contributions to Infant Mental Health

Dr. Jessica Riggs, Assistant Professor at Zero To Thrive in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, has been honored with the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (MI-AIMH) 2024 Hiram Fitzgerald Emerging Scholar/Researcher Award. Dr. Riggs is recognized for her innovative research advancing the field of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH), with a special focus on strengthening early relationships and supporting research and clinical practices that hold a social justice lens to address racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other inequities embedded in systems affecting young children and their families.

The MI-AIMH award announcement included glowing recognition of her passion for the field of infant mental health, demonstrated by her extensive research and clinical expertise. “Dr. Riggs holds a clear passion for and commitment to clinical science, as evidenced by her productive and high-quality research. She thoughtfully addresses health equity and considers culturally responsive approaches to working with and understanding the experiences of families who face structural inequities and forms of oppression and marginalization.”

The award communication goes on to say, “Her expertise in the assessment of early relationships is reflected in the number of highly complex methods she employs in her attachment-oriented research… This breadth of expertise speaks not only to the depth of her attachment training and knowledge but also to her clear observational skills and insight.”

Reflecting on her journey, Dr. Riggs expressed profound gratitude for the MI-AIMH community and also expressed why she feels this work is so meaningful “By allowing ourselves to focus on relationships beginning in pregnancy, and infancy, we are allowing ourselves to see the truth of all things. That who we are matters, even if we are very small, and cannot speak for ourselves. And that no matter our age, we can always reflect and revisit our past, and empower ourselves to celebrate the wisdom that brought us to this space, as well as the power to change what no longer serves us.”

Her commitment to this field is evident not only in her scholarly achievements but also in her clinical practice, where she mentors and trains the next generation of mental health professionals. Dr. Riggs’s work underscores the significance of early relationships, advocating for a holistic understanding of mental and relational health from the start of life.

Dr. Riggs obtained her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Michigan University in 2019, followed by a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Michigan in 2021. Zero To Thrive is incredibly grateful for Jessica’s constant and unwavering dedication to the field of infant mental health, her leadership within Michigan Medicine, and the countless lives she touches.

Publications Research

Examining the Link Between ACE’s and Placental Cortisol Dysregulation

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are extremely prevalent in the United States population. Although ACEs occurs in childhood, exposure to them has been associated with adverse future pregnancy outcomes and an increased risk of poorer social determinants of health, which further drive the risk of negative pregnancy outcomes.


Unlike other mental health conditions, such as depression, which is routinely screened for in obstetric care, ACE screening during pregnancy is not consistently performed. As a result, prior trauma often goes unrecognized, missing an opportunity for intervention.

Additionally, the negative health and pregnancy outcomes associated with ACEs are only beginning to be explored. Gaining an accurate physiologic understanding of how ACEs can adversely affect pregnancy and the health of offspring would provide an evidence-based rationale for implementing ACE screening as part of routine obstetric care. It would also advance our scientific understanding of the biological mechanisms behind the transmission of

historical trauma from mother to child and promote the health of future generations by enabling risk stratification of mothers and neonates who may benefit from early interventions.

In the paper, “Placental Cortisol Dysregulation in Mothers with Experiences of Childhood Adversity: Potential Mechanisms and Clinical Implications” Dr Maria Muzik, Dr. Joshua George and Dr. Courtney Townsel, continue to examine the exact biological pathway underlying this intergenerational passage of risk.

Strong Roots

Strong Roots Mom Power recently gained rating by the CEBC!

Zero To Thrive is very pleased to announce that the Strong Roots Mom Power program has recently gained rating by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse (CEBC) in the Depression

Treatment (Adult) Topic Area, where it is now rated a “3 — Promising Research Evidence” and has been added to the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Programs (Birth to 5) Topic Area, where it is rated a “3 — Promising Research Evidence” 

Read more about initial Mom Power CEBC rating here, when it was first rated as “3- Promising Research Evidence” for the Trauma Treatment (Adult) topic area. According to their website, the CEBC helps to identify and disseminate information regarding evidence-based practices relevant to child welfare. Evidence-based practices are those that have empirical research supporting their efficacy.

In the News

Disrupting the Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline with Universal Pre-K

Decades of research show the tremendous social and economic advantages that investing in early childhood education provides! The article linked below, from Second Wave Media, discusses Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s investment in PreK for All. Katherine Rosenblum, PhD, co-director of the University of Michigan’s Zero to Thrive program, emphasizes the significant return on investment in early childhood education and underscoring, among other things, the work that Zero To Thrives Infant and Early Childhood Clinic does to support early therapeutic interventions.

Read the full article here.

In the News Research

Celebrating Research Excellence in Women’s Health!

Maria Muzik, MD, MSc and Cecilia Martinez-Torteya, PhD, from Zero To Thrive, were honored for their research as recipients of the 2023 Woman’s Health Innovation Fund Award.


Their study, “The role of medical discrimination on racial health disparities in perinatal outcomes,” aims to delve into the critical issue of medical discrimination experienced by Black women during pregnancy and its implications for postpartum mental health, infant birthweight, gestational age at birth, and infant development at 6 months.


The study seeks to assess the quality of prenatal healthcare, experiences of medical discrimination, and peripartum morbidity and infant outcomes. Their findings will serve as a pivotal step towards understanding and addressing perinatal healthcare disparities among marginalized communities.


This award issued by the University of Michigan Health Von Voigtlander Woman’s Hospital, the Woman’s Health Innovation Fund provides resources to physicians and researchers in the early stages of launching important scientific research on women’s health topics. This support

helps to advance the creative concepts and revolutionary studies that could lead to the next big breakthrough in medicine. Read more about the award and the other research project that were honored here.

Strong Roots

Mom Power Added to California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC) Program Registry

The Zero to Thrive program within Michigan Medicine is pleased to announce their Strong Roots Mom Power program has been approved by the California Evidenced-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC), a nationally recognized body that applies rigorous standards of review to identify effective programs.

Strong Roots Mom Power program is a multi-generational group intervention for mothers with their babies facing high levels of adversity. This 13-week program engages mothers in strengths-based, resilience-building, and interactive mental health support. It offers developmental and parenting guidance, support for building self-care skills, and nurtures social support through connections with other mothers sharing these experiences.

Developed in 2009, Mom Power is the first evidence-based program of its kind to demonstrate functional changes in the maternal brain associated with intervention. The CEBC has rated Mom Power as a 3 – Promising Research Evidence on their Scientific Rating Scale in the Trauma Treatment (Adult) topic area. Research has shown:

•       Improvements in depression, parenting stress, and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

•       Decreased social isolation.

•       Improved confidence and comfort in parenting.

•       Increase in understanding of children’s behaviors and motivations.

•       Increased capacity to reflect on and respond to their own and their children’s emotions.

“Parenting is hard and can be very stressful, particularly for families facing adversities. Mom Power was co-developed with input from parents and providers and offers mothers a community to connect with others who ‘get it’, reflect on parenting, build self-care skills, and share in both the joys and hardships of parenthood.” said Kate Rosenblum, PhD, Professor and Co-Director of Zero to Thrive at Michigan Medicine. “The program is an evidence-based, therapist-led program specifically designed to mitigate barriers to engagement in services, enhance mental health and social support, and nurture responsive and secure early relationships. We are proud to be accepted to the CEBC registry.”

In the News

A pill to treat postpartum depression? It’s here

Dr. Maria Muzik was interviewed for this Michigan Medicine Health Lab story about the new FDA approved pill to treat postpartum depression. The fast-acting pill, paired with psychosocial treatment, offers a comprehensive treatment plan, but price concerns remain.

Publications Strong Roots

New Publication: Frontiers in Psychiatry

A new article has been published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry regarding a randomized pilot trial of Mom Power trauma- and attachment-informed multi-family group intervention in treating and preventing postpartum symptoms of depression among a health disparity sample.

In the News Strong Roots

U-M Health Commits $5.4 Million to Improve Health Equity in Washtenaw County

Project ‘Community Building through Relational Health: Perinatal Dialectical Behavior Therapy in Community Prevention/Intervention’ was one of the projects mentioned in this Michigan Medicine Headlines story: U-M Health Commits $5.4 Million to Improve Health Equity in Washtenaw County

This project will fund engagement with community members and behavioral health providers to support perinatal mental health and parent-infant/toddler relational health within Washtenaw County through widespread training in Strong Roots Perinatal Dialectical Behavior Therapy (SR Peri DBT) for pregnant and postpartum individuals. Training will take place in the format of Learning Collaboratives to support providers, and to expand service provision in the County. “I’m excited that I was also awarded a Medicaid Match grant for this project, and we have an amendment going in to expand that match budget so that we will essentially double the budget of this project, and it will allow us to expand these services to other counties, and to other departments within Michigan Medicine (e.g.. OBGYN),” says Dr. Riggs.

Publications Research

New Publication: Journal of Clinical Medicine

A new article has been published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine titled: Evaluation of the Michigan Clinical Consultation and Care Program discussing an evidence-based approach to perinatal mental healthcare.