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Jan 31 2013

Human Capital News Roundup: The stomach flu, lemur parasites, caring for female veterans, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows and grantees. Some recent examples:

RWJF/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar Anita Vashi, MD, is the lead author of a study that finds many patients visit emergency departments after being discharged from the hospital. With Medicare now structuring financial incentives and penalties around hospital readmission rates, Vashi and her colleagues suggest the focus on hospital readmissions as a measure of quality of care misses the large number of patients who return to the hospital's emergency room after discharge, but are not readmitted. Among the outlets to report on the findings: the Los Angeles Times,, and MedPage Today. Read more about Vashi’s research.

Product Design and Development featured RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Jennifer Doering, PhD, RN, and her interdisciplinary team, which designed and tested a research-based sleeping pod for infants. Many parents sleep with their infants, despite the dangers, so Doering’s team has created a portable, protective sleeping pod, equipped with wireless sensors to alert sleeping adults if they start to roll over onto it or if blankets or pillows fall on a sleeping baby. Read more about Doering’s research on the sleep habits of new mothers and infants.

Allison E. Aiello, PhD, MS, an alumna of the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program, spoke to NBC News and the about norovirus (the stomach flu). The virus is hard to get rid of, Aiello says, and can be spread to others before an infected person even feels sick. Proper hand-washing is important, at home and in public places like restaurants.

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Mar 5 2012

RWJF Scholar Puts GPS Technology to Work Fighting Asthma

David Van Sickle, PhD, MA, an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program and founder and CEO of Asthmapolis, has created a new device called a Spiroscout. It is an inhaler with a built-in Global-Positioning System (GPS) that sends a signal with the time and location to a remote server every time a patient uses it. Asthmapolis tracks and analyzes the data and sends regular reports to patients and physicians, along with observations and recommendations.


Last summer, RWJF’s Alumni Network talked with Van Sickle, an epidemiologist and medical anthropologist, and then this month, the RWJF Human Capital Blog followed up with a few more questions. The combined results of those conversations follow:

RWJF Alumni Network (AN): Have you always been working on asthma?

David Van Sickle: My whole career has been focused on asthma. I did my dissertation research on asthma in India and worked at the respiratory center in Arizona during grad school. When I was at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I was working in outbreak investigations, trying to figure out where and when asthma was happening, so we could better target our public health activities.

AN: How did you get the idea for your company?

Van Sickle: At the national level, we suffer from a lack of data about the day-to-day burden of asthma. When I went to the University of Wisconsin with the RWJF fellowship, and began to look more closely at the clinical management of asthma, I realized that physicians also suffered from a lack of information on how their patients were doing. I thought we could solve these two problems with one new technology that tracked where and when people are using their inhalers, which provides an important signal of how well the disease is being managed.

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