Category Archives: Scholars and fellows

Sep 16 2014
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Sep 12 2014
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Changing the Culture of Health to Prevent Suicide

Alexander Tsai, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a staff psychiatrist in the Massachusetts General Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry, and an honorary lecturer at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda. He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2010-2012), and a member of the core faculty in the Health & Society Scholars program at Harvard University.

Alexander Tsai

When Robin Williams ended his life last month, his suicide sparked a raft of online and print commentary about the dangers of depression and the need to inject more resources into our mental health care system. I strongly agree with these sentiments. After all, as a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, I regularly speak with patients who have been diagnosed with depression or who are actively thinking about ending their lives.

But what if suicide prevention isn’t just about better screening, diagnosis and treatment of depression? What if there were a better way to go about preventing suicides?

It is undeniable that people with mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder are at greater risk for suicidal thinking or suicide attempts. But not everyone with depression commits suicide, and not everyone who has committed suicide suffered from depression. In fact, even though depression is a strong predictor of suicidal thinking, it does not necessarily predict suicide attempts among those who have been thinking about suicide. Instead, among people who are actively thinking about suicide, the mental illnesses that most strongly predict suicide attempts are those characterized by anxiety, agitation and poor impulse control.

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Sep 11 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Mental health and returning service members, children of incarcerated parents, nurse turnover, more.

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

When reserve service members return to civilian life, such stresses as marriage and health care problems are more likely to trigger drinking problems than traumatic events that occurred during deployment, according to a study reported by Fox News. When it comes to the “long-term mental health for National Guard members, what matters is what happens after they come home,” said lead author Magdalena Cerdá, PhD, MPH, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna. “Financial difficulties, re-integrating, difficulties accessing quality health care, all of those seem to matter.” But deployment stress also has an impact. “[T]he more traumatic events they are exposed to during or after combat, the more problems they have in daily life when they come home,” she said. RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, co-authored the study. Health Canal also reported on it.

An estimated 17.5 percent of newly licensed RNs leave their first nursing job within the first year, and one in three leave within two years, according to research conducted by RWJF’s RN Work Project. Advance for Nurses quotes co-directors Christine T. Kovner, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Carol Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN. “One of the biggest problems we face in trying to assess the impact of nurse turnover on our health care system as a whole is that there’s not a single, agreed-upon definition of turnover,” Kovner said. “A high rate of turnover at a hospital, if it's voluntary, could be problematic,” Brewer added, “but if it’s involuntary or if nurses are moving within the hospital to another unit or position, that tells a very different story.” Nurse.com also covered the study.

Having incarcerated parents is associated with significant health problems and behavioral issues, and may be more harmful to children’s health than divorce or the death of a parent, USA Today reports. “These kids are saddled with disadvantages,” said Kristin Turney, PhD, author of the study that reached those conclusions. She is an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna. “They’re not only dealing with parental incarceration, but also mental health issues.” The study found that having a parent in prison was associated with such conditions as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, speech or language problems, and developmental delays. Turney’s study was also covered by US News and World Report, Salon, Psych Central, Healthline and Mother Jones, among other outlets. 

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Sep 8 2014
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Field of Dreams

“In the NFL, you have to be ready for everything,” says Lutul Farrow, MD.

He should know: For more than three years, the orthopedic surgeon was a member of the medical staff for his hometown Cleveland Browns. With Farrow on the sidelines were a nonsurgical sports medicine doctor and an anesthesiologist; in the stands were a paramedic and a dentist. “That was just for our team,” he says.

Farrow currently works with the Yellow Jackets, a Division III team at his college alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University. Because football requires physician coverage at every game, he travels with the Yellow Jackets to games throughout the Ohio Athletic Conference. He’s also the head team physician for the Brunswick High School Blue Devils.

On game day, he has a field-level view of every play—and every injury. “We mostly see strains and sprains,” he says, including hamstring pulls, ankle sprains, and ligament sprains of the knee.

Farrow predicts that the current attention to concussions—most recently the NCAA’s settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by former college players—will change the way the game is played.

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Sep 4 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: The nursing shortage, ADHD, meaningful online communications 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, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

NBC 2 (Buffalo, New York) interviewed Carol S. Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN, co-director of RWJF’s RN Work Project, for a story about the nursing shortage and job prospects for nurses early in their careers. “We are not seeing as much demand for brand new graduates,” Brewer said. However, the anticipated retirement of many older nurses and the increasing demand for health care as a result of the Affordable Care Act could combine to create a 19-percent increase in demand for nurses in the near future, Brewer said. In the meantime, she suggests that new nurses be willing to relocate and look for nursing jobs in rural communities, where demand is greater.

It is important to keep media and public focus on the Affordable Care Act, Jake Haselswerdt, PhD, an RWJF Scholar in Health Policy Research, tells the Independent Voters Network website, because some states are still blocking full implementation of the law. “In order for the more stubborn states to move forward with implementation and expanding care, there may need to be some continued pressure,” he said. “That’s going to require the media to pay attention to the big disparities that are emerging between states that tried to implement the law and those that resisted.”

Tina Bloom, PhD, RN, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar, led training for nurses in Columbia, Missouri, aimed at helping them identify the risk factors and symptoms of domestic violence, and then to support victims, ABC17 News reports. The training is consistent with preventive care provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the article says. Among other things, Bloom teaches nurses to look for certain types of injuries and for issues in patients’ medical histories that do not make sense.

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Aug 28 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Medical marijuana’s unanticipated benefits, infant sleep pods, 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, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

States that have legalized medical marijuana have seen nearly 25 percent fewer deaths from overdoses involving prescription painkillers than states that have not, according to a study led by Marcus Bachhuber, MD. ABC News reports on it, noting that 23 states and the District of Columbia have such laws. Researchers found that while opioid overdose rates continued to climb, the increase was much slower in states with medical marijuana laws, resulting in 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdose. “This study raises the possibility that there is an unintended public health benefit of medical marijuana laws, but we still need to collect more information to confirm or refute what we’ve found,” says Bachhuber, an RWJF/Veterans Administration Clinical Scholar at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Outlets covering Bachhuber’s study include CNN, Washington Post, Business Insider, Health Day and Vox.

An infant “sleep pod” designed by Jennifer Doering, PhD, RN, is one of 11 projects funded through new grants from the University of Wisconsin Extension and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The $25,000 Ideadvance grants are intended to move good ideas more quickly to the marketplace. Doering’s I-SleepPod, developed as a result of her work in the RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program, would allow an infant to sleep next to an adult while remaining safe, thanks in part to an alarm that wakes the adult in the event of an unsafe sleeping position. “We designed the sleep pod to minimize hazards because, if we don’t move in that direction of reducing sleep-related infant deaths, then [society] is essentially saying it’s acceptable to have 600 babies die every year that way,” Doering said.

Nutrition rating systems in supermarkets may encourage shoppers to purchase less junk food, according to a study led by John Cawley, PhD, an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus and Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient. The study coupled sales data from Hannaford Supermarkets in the northeastern United States from January 2005 to December 2007 with the Guiding Stars nutritional rating system. The ratings system assigns zero to three stars to food items, based on their nutritional value. Researchers found that sales of less healthy foods—such as highly processed snack foods—fell by 8.31 percent when branded with a low nutrition rating, while healthy food purchases rose by 1.39 percent, Medical Xpress reports.

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Aug 25 2014
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RWJF Milestones, August 2014

The following are among the many honors received recently by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, grantees and alumni:

James S. Jackson, PhD, a 2009 recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, has been appointed by President Obama to serve on the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board. Jackson is a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and director of its Institute for Social Research.

Geraldine “Polly” Bednash, PhD, RN, FAAN, will receive the National League for Nursing’s (NLN) highest honor, the President’s Award, at the 2014 NLN Education Summit in mid-September. Bednash is the recently retired chief executive officer of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and director of New Careers in Nursing, a joint initiative of RWJF and AACN focused on increasing diversity in the nursing workforce.

Sally Cohen, PhD, RN, FAAN, has been selected as the 2014-2015 Distinguished Nurse Scholar-in-Residence at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. The program provides a yearlong leadership opportunity to participate in shaping health policy. Cohen was also named editor-in-chief of the journal, Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice.  She is director of the Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico.

Lainie Ross, MD, PhD, a 2013 recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, has been named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow. Ross will use her fellowship year to research the relationship between ethics and genetics for a book, currently titled, From Peapods to Whole Genomes: Incidental Findings and Unintended Consequences in a Post-Mendelian World. The fellowship is awarded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to recipients with “demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”

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Aug 21 2014
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New Cohort of RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has announced the 20 accomplished nurses from across the United States selected as RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows for 2014.

Executive Nurse Fellows hold senior leadership positions in health services, scientific and academic organizations, public health and community-based organizations or systems, and professional, governmental and policy organizations. They participate in a three-year leadership development program designed to enhance the effectiveness of nurse leaders who are working to improve the nation’s health care system. Fellows receive coaching, education, and other support to enhance their abilities to lead teams and organizations. The program is located at the Center for Creative Leadership.

More than 200 nurse leaders have participated in the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program since it began in 1998. This will be the program’s final cohort.

Read more about the new cohort of RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows.

Aug 21 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Costs for blood tests, dentists testing for hypertension and HIV, fudging medical history, 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, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

A new study uncovers vast variation in pricing for common blood tests by California hospitals, reports the Washington Post. Renee Hsia, MD, MSc, an RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars program alumna, says she was “very surprised” to see such variation among more than 160 hospitals studied. Hsia’s research found that during 2011, some hospitals charged as little as $10 and others as much as $10,169 for a basic cholesterol test. The study found no clear explanation for the price differences for what Hsia categorized as ten “simple and standard” tests in which blood samples are inserted into a machine that performs the analysis. Time magazine, the Boston Globe and Kaiser Health News also cover Hsia’s research.

Dentists could offer a variety of medical tests in the future, including diagnostic tests for health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and HIV, Harold Pollack, PhD, tells Ozy.com. The mouth, Pollack says, “is the gateway to the human body.” He is an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient.  

“There’s an overabundance of evidence that shows hospitals that have better staffing have better outcomes when we look at things like mortality,” Matthew McHugh, PhD, JD, MPH, FAAN, tells the Santa Fe New Mexican. In an article about nurse staffing ratios, McHugh, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program alumnus, says hospital readmissions, failure to rescue patients in distress, and patient satisfaction also correlate with increased staffing. “If you compare any two hospitals—one that’s good at staffing and one that has not as good staffing, but are similar in other factors—the hospital with better staffing is much less likely to be penalized” for bad patient outcomes by Medicare and Medicaid, McHugh notes. 

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Aug 20 2014
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Stay Up to Date with RWJF!

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