Category Archives: Scholars and fellows

Oct 23 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: CPR for Ebola patients, freezing women’s eggs, the inevitability of failure, 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:

The New York Times reports on remarks by medical ethicist Joseph J. Fins, MD, in which he calls for clearer guidance on whether clinicians should administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to Ebola patients whose hearts stop beating. In a commentary published on the Hastings Center Report website, and cited by the Times, Fins argues against administering CPR because of the danger of transmission of the virus to clinicians, the slim likelihood that Ebola patients will recover, and other clinical factors. Fins, an RWJF  Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient, urges a dialogue on the question leading to clear guidelines from hospitals and government officials.

In an article for CNN, Rene Almeling, PhD, and co-authors say that while Apple and Facebook made headlines last week for offering to cover costs for their female employees to freeze their eggs, people should be suspicious of egg-freezing as a “solution.” The technology carries risk and has high rates of failure, they write. “But even if the technology were perfect, the proposal to help women put motherhood on ice so they can focus on their jobs is shortsighted,” they add. “[R]ather than making fundamental changes to the structure of work in our society to accommodate women’s reproductive years, technological optimists reach for an engineering solution. ... Instead, the goal should be to build systems of production that allow us to live our lives without constantly watching the clock.” Almeling is an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna.

The consumption of sugar-sweetened soda might be promoting disease independent of its role in obesity, according to a study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumni Belinda Needham, PhD, MA, and David Rehkopf, ScD, MPH. The study shows that telomeres—the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells—were shorter in the white blood cells of survey participants who reported drinking more soda, Science Blog reports. Shorter telomeres have been linked to a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

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Oct 20 2014
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Thoughts on Mentoring

For 23 years, Project L/EARN has created stronger candidates for admission to graduate programs. The intensive, 10-week summer internship provides training, experience, and mentoring to undergraduate college students from socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups that traditionally have been underrepresented in graduate education. Project L/EARN is a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, and Rutgers University. In this post, interns and mentors share their insights on the value of mentoring in general, and on Project L/EARN in particular. For more, check out an accompanying Infographic: Project L/EARN: Milestones.

“Project L/EARN mentoring has been incredibly instrumental in my career path and has contributed greatly to my professional success. The program was my first major introduction to research, and helped me to apply and reinforce research methods and statistical analysis skills throughout my undergraduate and graduate years.” — Anuli Uzoaru Njoku, 1999 Intern

“Mentoring means allowing me to experience how someone else sees me—someone who believes in me and sees my potential, someone who can set my sights higher and in the right direction.” — Tamarie Macon, 2006 Intern

“Project L/EARN mentoring, then and now, has been the difference between the summer program being a one-time experience, and the beginning of an educational and professional career that will undoubtedly contribute to the story of my life. The mentoring was the avenue by which my truest potential, of which I had no real awareness, was discovered and cultivated. That cultivation has resulted, and is still resulting, in opportunities and accomplishments that are beyond my imagination.” — David Fakunle, 2008 Intern

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Oct 17 2014
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RWJF’s Lavizzo-Mourey, Nursing Grantees Honored by American Academy of Nursing

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), was honored by the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) yesterday, receiving the President’s Award from the venerable institution.

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The presentation was made by AAN President Diana Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, at its conference, Transforming Health, Driving Policy Conference. Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, spoke to the assembled conference participants via video. “At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we like to say that nursing is in our DNA. That’s because we believe to our core that nurses are the glue that holds together our health care system across the entire continuum of an individual’s lifespan ... We envision a future where all Americans realize a new and robust Culture of Health ... We cannot and we will not ever achieve a Culture of Health without the support, help and the leadership of nurses.”

“I am grateful to be honored with this award,” Lavizzo-Mourey continued. “And know that you are all committed to transforming health, leading change, influencing policy, and ultimately improving the nation’s health ... And I am humbled to be in the company of this year’s FAAN inductees and the Living Legend honorees who will be recognized tonight. Congratulations to everyone – and a shout-out to those who are RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni.”

Some 170 people will be inducted as fellows of AAN (FAANs) tomorrow. They include four RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows, eight RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars, two RWJF Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative investigators, and Mary Dickow, MPA, the statewide director of the California Action Coalition of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.

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Oct 16 2014
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RWJF’s Clinical Scholars Program: A Proud Legacy of Creating Change

Encouraging physicians to be not only agents of care, but agents of change: That’s the challenge the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars Program has embraced for 45 years, and it’s a challenge the Foundation has met with “great success,” writes Bharat Kumar, MD, in an article in the American Medical Association’s ethics journal, Virtual Mentor.

In an era of increased activism and access to health care as evidenced by the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, a group of medical school professors envisioned the Clinical Scholars Program as a way to move beyond “the detached and passive model of medical practice” and instead “train physicians to become agents of change, not only in the clinic and in the hospital, but also in communities, in classrooms, and the halls of power,” Kumar writes. Three years after the program was launched in 1969 at five universities, with support from the Carnegie Corporation and the Commonwealth Fund, it came under the auspices of RWJF.

The article describes the program’s current objective—to provide post-doctoral training for young physicians in health services research, community-based participatory research and health policy research—and its current structure: training sites at the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and the University of California, Los Angeles; a national program office at the University of North Carolina; and a longtime collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that supports positions for Clinical Scholars via affiliated Veterans Affairs medical centers.

The program’s final cohort of scholars, selected this year, will follow in the footsteps of more than 1,200 alumni, many of whom “have become leaders in health care policy and delivery,” Kumar writes, with roles in all levels of government and notable advancements in the fields of pediatrics, internal medicine, and emergency medicine.

Alumna Stacey Lindau, MD, says in the article that the program’s “traditions of promoting excellence, critical thinking, and service extend beyond the two to three years of training, effectively creating a pipeline of alumni dedicated to service.”

Read “The Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program: Four Decades of Training Physicians as Agents of Change.”

Oct 16 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Ebola safeguards, pay-for-performance, brain development 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:

PBS NewsHour interviews Howard Markel, MD, PhD, FAAP, on whether hospitals, doctors and nurses are sufficiently prepared to handle Ebola cases in the United States, and what measures should be taken to increase safety. “As someone who studies epidemics, there’s always lots of fear, scapegoating and blame,” Markel, an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient, said. “American tolerance for anything less than perfection has only shortened. The incredible thing to focus on is that so little has happened, so few cases have spread here.” The video is available here and an accompanying article is available here. Markel is also quoted in an Ebola story in the New Republic and wrote a blog for the Huffington Post.

In an article for Forbes magazine, RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Peter Ubel, MD, discusses whether pay-for-performance health care models can lead to overdiagnosis and overuse of antibiotics. He cites recent journal articles suggesting that sepsis may be over diagnosed in hospitals because the institutions receive higher reimbursements for sepsis patients than for those with milder infections. “In other words, it pays not to miss sepsis diagnoses,” Ubel writes. “Because of the inherent subjectivity of medical diagnoses, those groups that assess health care quality need to remain on the alert for the unintended consequences of their measures. And those insurers and regulators eager to establish clinical care mandates? They need to slow down and make sure their administrative fixes do not create undue side effects.” Ubel also wrote a separate Forbes article on health insurance turnover.

Recent research on children who began life in overcrowded Romanian orphanages shows that early childhood neglect is associated with changes in brain structure, Science Times reports. A study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Margaret Sheridan, PhD, finds that children who spent their early years in Romanian orphanages have thinner brain tissue in cortical areas that correspond to impulse control and attention, providing support for a link between the early environment and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Researchers compared brain scans from 58 children who spent at least some time in institutions with scans of 22 non-institutionalized children from nearby communities, all between the ages of 8 and 10. The article notes that the study is among the first to document how social deprivation in early life affects the thickness of the cortex.

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Oct 15 2014
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Let’s Have a Conversation about Food that Goes Beyond Restriction and Restraint—and Resonates with Real People

Sonya Grier, PhD, MBA, is an associate professor of marketing at the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington, D.C., and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2003-2005).

Sonya Grier Sonya Grier, PhD, MBA

Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on receiving the Thomas C. Kinnear award for your 2011 article in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing on food well-being! Please tell us about the award.

Sonya Grier: The award honors articles published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing (JPP&M) that have made a significant contribution to the understanding of marketing and public policy issues. This year, eligible articles needed to have been published between 2010 and 2012. The marketing community was called upon to nominate articles for the award. JPP&M editorial review board members and associate editors then voted among the nominees.

Generously funded by Thomas C. Kinnear, his colleagues, friends and former students, and administered through the American Marketing Association  Foundation, the award’s purpose is to recognize authors who have produced particularly high-quality and impactful research in marketing and public policy.

HCB: How did your article do that?

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Oct 14 2014
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Crusader Against Cancer

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Jacqueline Barrientos, MD, a member of the 1994 class.

Jacqueline Barrientos Jacqueline Barrientos, MD

As far back as Ancient Egypt, cancer has frustrated medical practice. Papyri written around 1600 BC describe various cases, with one concluding that “there is no treatment.”

But there’s hope for patients diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)—a cancer that attacks the blood and bone marrow—thanks to Jacqueline Barrientos, MD, who isn’t intimidated by the history surrounding the disease.

She’s busy helping to rewrite it.

Barrientos is part of a team researching new CLL therapies at the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute’s CLL Research and Treatment Center on Long Island. In clinical trials, the pioneering drug treatments produced unprecedented results—considerably better than those achieved with chemotherapy, and minus the brutal side effects.

“We’ve never seen response rates like this before,” says Barrientos. “It’s astonishing.” When the FDA approved the use of the new treatments earlier this year, she and her team were elated. “We’re giving life to patients who once had no hope of surviving because the cancer was so aggressive.”

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Oct 9 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: The nurse faculty shortage, teaching empathy, a link between overtime and diabetes, 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:

ABC News explores the nation’s nursing workforce shortage, focusing specifically on the faculty shortage at nursing schools. “Suddenly, we turned around and realized we’re not attracting enough nurses to go into teaching,” said Kimberly Glassman, PhD, RN, chief nursing officer at NYU Langone Medical Center. “The fear is we will have to shrink the number of nurses we can prepare for the future at a time when we need to prepare more.” Glassman is an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow. The article was republished by Yahoo News and ABC News Radio.

RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus Allison Aiello, PhD, MS, is interviewed for an NBC News story on Enterovirus D-68. She recommends that parents consider getting flu shots for their children, noting that preventing children from getting the flu should help make Enterovirus less complicated to diagnose and treat. The video is available here.

RWJF Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program scholar Paloma Toledo, MD, co-authors a Huffington Post blog entry on the need for medical schools to teach students to be empathetic. Over the course of their training, they become less empathetic, as opposed to more empathetic, and the reasons for this are unclear,” Toledo writes, recommending lectures on active listening and communication skills, among other measures. 

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Oct 2 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Autism and birth order, nurse staffing and underweight infants, long-term care insurance, 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:

There is an increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) among children born less than one year or more than five years after the birth of their next oldest sibling, Forbes reports. The study, led by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Keely Cheslack-Postava, PhD, MSPH, analyzed the records of 7,371 children born between 1987 and 2005, using data from the Finnish Prenatal Study of Autism. About a third of the children had been diagnosed with ASD by 2007. Researchers found that the risk of ASD for children born less than 12 months after their prior sibling was 50 percent higher than it was for children born two to five years after their prior sibling. “The theory is that the timing between pregnancies changes the prenatal environment for the developing fetus,” Cheslack-Postava said. 

The health outcomes and quality of care for underweight black infants could greatly improve with more nurses on staff at hospitals with higher concentrations of black patients, according to a study funded by RWJF’s Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI). The study, led by Eileen Lake, PhD, RN, FAAN, found that nurse understaffing and practice environments were worse at hospitals with higher concentrations of black patients, contributing to adverse outcomes for very low birthweight babies born in those facilities, reports Health Canal. More information is available on the INQRI Blog. The study was covered by Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses, among other outlets.

Because of a “medical-industrial complex” that provides financial incentives to overuse and fragment health care, patients nearing the end of their lives need an advocate to fight for their interests, Joan Teno, MD, MS, writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times. Teno encourages readers to “find a family member or friend who can advocate for the health care that you want and need. Find someone to ask the hard questions: What is your prognosis? What are the benefits and risks of treatments? Find someone not afraid of white coats.” Teno is an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient. 

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Oct 1 2014
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New Journal Covers Emerging Field of Health Economics

Deborah Haas-Wilson, PhD, is a visiting professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a member of the editorial board of the forthcoming American Journal of Health Economics. In 1994, she received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Investigator Award in Health Policy Research to study antitrust policy and the transformation of health care markets.

Deborah Haas-Wilson

Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your appointment to the editorial board of the American Journal of Health Economics. Can you tell us about the journal’s mission?

Deborah Haas-Wilson: I am very pleased to be serving on the editorial board of the American Journal of Health Economics (AJHE), along with many distinguished health economists, including Frank Sloan, PhD, who is the editor-in-chief.

A little about the AJHE: The plan is to publish quarterly with the first issue scheduled for the winter of 2015. The mission of the AJHE is to provide a forum for theoretical and empirical analyses of health care systems and health behaviors.

HCB: What topics will the AJHE cover?          

Haas-Wilson: Topics of particular interest include the impact of the Accountable Care Act, pharmaceutical regulation, the supply of medical devices, the increasing obesity rate, the influence of an aging and more diverse population on health care systems, and competition and competition policy in the markets for hospital services, physician services, pharmaceuticals and health care financing.

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