YCCI Scholars Engaged in Community-Based Research

Approximately 20 percent of the junior faculty selected for the YCCI Scholar Program are conducting community-based research. Moreover, 15 percent (or nearly $7 million) of the total external grants awarded to YCCI Scholars are for community-based projects. Many of these Scholars work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program and other partners in developing and performing their projects. Below are highlights of some YCCI Scholars who have conducted community-engaged research:

Assistant Professor, Yale School of Nursing
2012 YCCI Scholar

Most older adults who experience fragility fractures don’t typically have osteoporosis; most of the fractures they experience are the result of a fall. Most of the HIV infected patients that Julie Womack, M.A., M.S.N., Ph.D., works with are in their mid 50s or younger, yet this population also experiences fragility fractures.

This led her to study falls in HIV-infected patients at the Yale AIDS Program’s Nathan Smith Clinic and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Her Scholar award allowed her to collect quantitative and qualitative data to explore risk factors and ways to prevent falls in these patients.

The award was especially helpful in allowing her to use natural language processing to identify falls in clinical progress notes and radiology reports and conduct patient interviews at the clinic for the qualitative analysis. She learned that interventions designed to prevent falls among the elderly may not translate to the HIV population because of population differences between the elderly, who have been the focus of most falls studies, and younger, HIV infected patients. For example, while antipsychotic use, and drug and alcohol use have not, thus far, been common in elderly populations, they are important concerns among HIV infected groups. She also found that the qualitative research she was able to conduct was a great opportunity to get input from patients regarding the issues they face. She is now starting to identify modifiable risk factors for falls, as well as interventions.

Combining informatics and qualitative analysis allowed Dr.Womack to achieve a balanced view of the problem at hand. Big data sets, particularly in clinical epidemiology, provide invaluable information, but don’t tell the whole story. “I think there’s a lot that you miss if you just look at the numbers,” she said.

As a Scholar, she was interested in learning about research being conducted by other Scholars at the Research in Progress meetings and appreciated being able to delve into her research in a new way. “I couldn’t have done my research without it,” she said.

For more on Dr. Womack, click here.

Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases)
Chief of Medicine, Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center
2008 YCCI Scholar

In his role as Chief of Medicine at Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, Douglas Bruce, M.D., M.A., M.S., uses research to help drive improvements in patient care. “It’s exciting to apply research and a focus on evidence-based care to the health center,” he said.

Dr. Bruce’s research has focused on the intersection of substance dependence and infectious diseases. Early on, the Scholar program offered mentorship from faculty members across the university, an experience that he found to be valuable. “It provided me with access to additional relationships that made my work much easier,” he said. He also found that the exposure to other researchers through the bi-monthly Research in Progress meetings afforded a change in perspective that helped inform his work.

He conducted research for his Scholar project on integrating hepatitis C treatment with methadone maintenance therapy at South Central Rehabilitation Center, one of the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center clinics, his first foray into public health in New Haven. This paved the way to additional work integrating infectious disease and substance abuse treatment, which eventually led to a series of projects in the international arena where he modified what he had learned in Connecticut.

A desire to help create an evidence-public health center prompted his full-time move to the Center, which has 36,000 patients and six major sites in addition to satellite clinics. He maintains ties with Yale and continues to conduct research that informs evidence-based performance improvements. One example is an initiative to photograph the retinas of diabetes patients, facilitate speedy review by an ophthalmologist, and collect data to determine if it’s worthwhile to invest in the program.

Dr. Bruce serves on YCCI’s T3 working groups for asthma and obesity/diabetes and is also exploring funding and other opportunities with Yale that are a win-win for everyone. “The skills I developed at Yale have honed my ability to help move the needle on performance and in doing that I think we can see positive outcomes,” he said. He relishes the ability to work on a larger scale and believes that his efforts can help other health systems in Connecticut and nationally to improve quality and access to health care.

For more on Dr. Bruce, click here.

Associate Professor of Psychiatry

Chronic cocaine users may think they’re getting a good night’s sleep, but they are often deficient in “slow wave” sleep, the deep, restorative sleep that helps build physical and mental energy. Peter Morgan, M.D., Ph.D., used his Scholar award to study whether the stimulant modafinil could help reset the homeostatic sleep response – the inner clock that regulates sleep and wakefulness.

His Scholar award became the basis of an R01, allowing him to show that those who respond better to the medication abstain longer from using cocaine. Those who started treatment as inpatients, a setting that ensures both abstinence and a structured sleep schedule – had the highest rate of success. “There are no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of cocaine dependence, so we’re hoping that studies like this one will encourage people to start using it as a treatment,” he said.

Dr. Morgan conducts his research at the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC), one of the oldest community mental health centers in the country that is a collaboration between the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction and the Yale University Department of Psychiatry. CMHC provides recovery-oriented mental health services for thousands of people in the New Haven area each year.

AT CMHC, he also conducts research on insomnia in patients with chronic mental illness. He is testing a computer-based intervention that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help improve sleep for these individuals. “Our clients may be on a number of medications that may affect sleep, so it’s an open question as to whether an intervention that doesn’t involve medication might help them sleep,” he said.

Without the initial award from YCCI, Dr. Morgan would have found it difficult to begin the patient-oriented research that is allowing him to help patients today. “I don’t know what I would have done without that support,” he said. “It really launched my career to start my own research.”

For more on Dr. Morgan, click here.

Growing up in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, a health professional shortage area, Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS, remembers countless stories of loved ones and members of her community who struggled with their health or died prematurely. That experience led her to pursue a career in medicine and conduct research that focuses on vulnerable populations and their interactions with healthcare systems.

Ever since her arrival at Yale as a fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program (CSP), Dr. Nunez-Smith has been on a mission to develop ways of addressing health and healthcare inequities wherever they are found: in patient settings, in the healthcare workforce, and in medical education. As a 2006 YCCI Scholar, she gathered preliminary data for what is now known as PreDict (Patient-Reported Experiences of Discrimination in Care Tool). PreDict is a tool that assesses the patient care experience and measures hospital performance with the goal of improving the quality of care delivery. “The Scholar award was tremendously helpful because it allowed me to launch a line of inquiry that was new and then provided me with the resources to complete the preliminary work that allowed us to be competitive for major NIH grants,” she said.

Dr. Nunez-Smith went on to develop the Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network (ECHORN), a collaborative multi-million dollar research study funded by the National Institute for Minority Health Disparities (NIMHD). ECHORN examines the risk factors and prevalence of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease in the Eastern Caribbean, a region for which such data are lacking.

Both ECHORN and PreDict – which has spurred several related projects undertaken by her mentees – are now incorporated into the Equity Research and Innovation Center (ERIC), for which Dr. Nunez-Smith serves as director. ERIC builds on the local, national, and global experience of Dr. Nunez-Smith and 60 team members that are involved in research aimed at narrowing health and healthcare inequities, as well as disparities in the healthcare workforce and medical education.

As a former YCCI Scholar, Dr. Nunez-Smith appreciates the benefits of mentorship and serves as academic advisor to Yale School of Medicine students. She also continues her involvement with the CSP as a core faculty member of the Scholars Program and co-director of Community Research Initiatives. “I’m working towards synergy across all of these programs so they’re not siloed,” she said. “The idea is to think about core elements of knowledge for our faculty for population health and health equity and engage stakeholders in our work.”

For more on Dr. Nunez-Smith, click here.

Bio Profile

Deepa R Camenga, MD, MHS

Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine

Dr. Deepa Camenga is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Section of Research at Yale. She is board certified in pediatrics and addiction medicine. Dr. Camenga completed her medical education and residency training at the University of Rochester, NY. Dr. Camenga completed a fellowship in health services research through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at Yale. She works with residents and students in the YNHH Primary Care Center and treats adolescents and...

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Sreeganga S Chandra, PhD

Associate Professor of Neurology

Associate Professor of MCDB

Associate Professor of Neuroscience

Deputy Chair of Neuroscience

Sreeganga S. Chandra received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Purdue University. In her postdoctoral research, she pursued her interest in neuronal cell biology and neurodegeneration in the lab of Thomas C. Südhof at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology, Molecular Cellular and Developmental and in the Yale Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair.

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Sandy Chang, MD, PhD

Yale College Associate Dean for Science Education, Professor of Laboratory Medicine, Pathology and Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry

Associate Director, Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory

Dr. Chang graduated with a BS from Yale College in 1988, and obtained his MD from Cornell University Medical College and his PhD from Rockefeller University in 1997. He completed residency in Clinical Pathology at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, and did his postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Ronald DePinho at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School. He was an Assistant and then Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics, MD Anderson Cancer Center, before joining the...

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Forrest W. Crawford, PhD

Associate Professor of Biostatistics

Co-director, Public Health Modeling Concentration

Forrest Crawford's work focuses on mathematical and statistical problems related to discrete structures and stochastic processes in epidemiology, public health, biomedicine, and evolutionary science.

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Charles Sun Dela Cruz, MD, PhD

Associate Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine) and of Microbial Pathogenesis

Director, Center for Pulmonary Infection Research and Treatment (CPIRT)

Dr. Dela Cruz completed his research training through an MD/PhD program in the area of immunology and virology from University of Toronto and Yale. Clinically, he is trained in internal medicine, and specializes in pulmonary and critical care medicine and is currently an Associate Professor at Yale University in the same department. He is also the founding director for the Center for Pulmonary Infection Research and Treatment (CPIRT). www.cpirt.yale.edu. His laboratory is interested in studying...

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Aileen Gariepy, MD, MPH, FACOG

Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences and Assistant Clinical Professor of Nursing

“On average, women spend 30 years of their lives trying to avoid pregnancy,” says Dr. Aileen M. Gariepy. “I'm here to help.” As Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale, Dr. Gariepy sees patients everyday who are seeking the latest information about their birth control options. “Developments in contraceptive technology have led to pregnancy prevention options that better match women's needs—and can be 20 times more effective than the pill,” she ...

A ...

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Leora Horwitz, MD, MHS

Leora Horwitz, MD is a general internist who studied social science as an undergraduate and is now a clinician researcher focused on quality and safety in healthcare. In particular, she focuses on systems and practices intended to bridge gaps or discontinuities in care. She has studied shift-to-shift transfers among physicians and among nurses, transfers from the emergency department to inpatient units, and the transition from the hospital to home. Her current work is focused primarily on the...

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Joanne DeSanto Iennaco, PhD, PMHNP (BC), APRN

Associate Clinical Professor

Psychiatric-Mental Health Specialty

Joanne DeSanto Iennaco is an Associate Professor of Nursing and Psychiatry at Yale University, and Specialty Coordinator of the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program at Yale School of Nursing. Professor Iennaco holds a PhD in Chronic Disease Epidemiology from Yale University's School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the effects of aggression exposure on workers in inpatient psychiatric and hospital settings. Dr. Iennaco is also a Clinical Interventionist leading CBT for...

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Manisha Juthani, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases)

Program Director, Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program

Associate Program Director for Career Development, Traditional Internal Medicine Residency Program

Director of Internal Medicine Fellowship Programs

Dr. Juthani is an Infectious Diseases physician at Yale School of Medicine. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of Pennsylvania, attended Cornell University Medical College, completed residency training at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Campus, and was a Chief Resident at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She arrived at Yale School of Medicine in 2002 for Infectious Diseases Fellowship Training and joined the full-time faculty in 2006. She assumed the...

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Nina Kadan-Lottick, MD

Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Hematology / Oncology)

Medical Director, HEROS Program

YCCI K Scholar

Project: 09/30/06 - 06/30/08

Psychosocial outcomes amoung children withLeukemia

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Nancy Kim, MD, PhD

Academic Hospitalist

Dr. Kim is a Board-certified internist and Academic Hospitalist trained in health services research. She is the Associate Director of the Office of Student Research at the Yale University School of Medicine and has served as the Measure Lead in the development of the CMS Episode of Care Payment Measures for Acute Myocardial Infarction, Heart Failure, Pneumonia, and primary elective hip/knee arthroplasty at Yale CORE as well as the Measure Lead on the Reevaluation of the Scoring Methodology for...

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Grace Kong, PhD

Assistant Professor

Dr. Kong is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology (Child and Adolescent Track) at St. John’s University in 2009, and completed her NIDA T32 postdoctoral fellowship focused on adolescent substance abuse in the Division of Substance Abuse at Yale School of Medicine in 2012. Dr. Kong’s current research interests include understanding substance use health disparities among youth, the use of social media for...

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Kasia Joanna Lipska, MD, MHS, BS

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology)

Dr. Lipska is an endocrinologist at the Yale School of Medicine and a Clinical Investigator at the Yale-New Haven Hospital Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE). Her research program seeks to better understand the balance of benefits and harms of glucose-lowering therapy in older adults with type 2 diabetes. Her current research projects are primarily focused on severe hypoglycemia. She is investigating trends in admissions for hypoglycemia among the elderly Medicare population;...

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Karen Dorsey Sheares, MD, PhD

Associate Research Scientist in Pediatrics (General Pediatrics)

Karen B. Dorsey, MD, PhD is an Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Pediatrics at Yale University and a clinical researcher at the Yale New Haven Hospital, Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE). Dr. Dorsey earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and medical degree at Washington University in St. Louis. She completed training in Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian and matriculated to the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical...

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Emily Wang, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine (General Medicine)

Dr. Emily Wang, MD, MAS, is an Associate Professor at the Yale School of Medicine and Co-Founder of the Transitions Clinic Network. Dr. Wang’s research focuses on promoting health equity for vulnerable populations, especially individuals with a history of incarceration, through both prison and community based interventions. She has developed expertise in training former prisoners to become community health workers and researchers through community based participatory research methods. She is...

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