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Palliative Care and Aging Research Training (T32)


Dr. Jean Kutner​ directs this Institutional NRSA (T32) focused on training investigators in research relevant to older adults with serious illness.  The goal of this T32 is to prepare trainee candidates for careers as palliative care researchers.

It is recommended that potential applicants contact Dr. Kutner (jean.kutner@ucdenver.edu) prior to submitting an application.

Core Mentors:

Larry A. Allen, MD, MHS, Associate Professor, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, UC-AMC. As the Director of Advanced Heart Failure, Dr. Allen provides potential mentorship for those interested in end-stage heart failure and aggressive technologies at end-of-life. Dr. Allens long-term goal are to help patients with heart failure and their health care providers to 1) recognize the transition into advanced heart failure, 2) calibrate expectations for possible future outcomes, and 3) to proactively make decisions that are most concordant with clinical realities and patient preferences. Dr. Allen has had a history of successful collaboration with other mentors in geriatrics and palliative care, including Drs. Kutner, Masters, Matlock, and Bekelman. Dr. Allen’s current extramural research support is from NHLBI and PCORI. 

Dr. David Bekelman, tests ways to integrate palliative and psychosocial care into the ongoing care of people with chronic non-cancer illnesses, particularly heart failure and chronic lung disease.  He has experience with behavioral/health services intervention trials, outcomes research, and qualitative and mixed methods.  He has also investigated spirituality and informal caregiving in chronic illness.  He is funded by the VA and the NIH to conduct two multi-site trials of palliative/psychosocial care in chronic illness.

Dr. Rebecca Boxeris an Associate Professor of Medicine, Divisions of Geriatric Medicine and Cardiology at the University of Colorado.  Presently Dr. Boxer cares for seniors needing primary care and heart failure care. Dr. Boxer’s research focuses on heart failure symptom control and disease management.  Recent research interests include remote patient monitoring and maintenance of physical activity for those with chronic illness. She has published in multiple heart failure and geriatric medicine journals and speaks around the United States on strategies to improve heart failure management for older adults. Dr. Boxer’s research is funded by the NIH, PCORI and Denver Veterans Affairs Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center.

Dr. S. Gail Eckhardt's focus is on oncology drug development and gastrointestinal cancers. For the past 20 years she has been conducting early clinical studies with novel targeted agents in conjunction with mentoring clinicians in patient-oriented research. She has mentored many trainees, several of which now hold major positions in academic medical centers. Recently she has been collaborating with Drs. Laudenslager, Kilbourn, and Kutner on the stresses faced by caregivers of patients on Phase I trials. She is PI on an NCI grant to conduct Phase I and II trials as part of the NCI's Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Research Network, in collaboration with MDACC.

Dr. Diane Fairclough’s interest focus on the design and analysis of clinical trials in populations with significant morbidity and mortality that results in non-random missing data. She is and has been a co-investigator on numerous studies of individuals with life-limiting conditions and has a focused interest on measures of Health-related QOL.

Dr. Stacy Fischer is an Associate Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Her research interests focus on health disparities and improving palliative care outcomes for underserved populations. She is the PI on two multi-site randomized controlled trials of the culturally tailored patient navigator intervention for Latinos with advanced illness, funded by American Cancer Society and the National Institute of Nursing Research. She serves as the Colorado Site PI for the Palliative Care Research Cooperative. ​

Evelyn Hutt, MD, Associate Professor, Divisions of General Internal Medicine, and Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, UC-AMC and Denver VAMC. As a fellowship-trained geriatrician and clinician-investigator, Dr. Hutt has the experience and expertise to serve as a mentor of pre- and post-doctoral trainees on this T32. Dr. Hutt has a Merit Review from VA HSR&D for a mixed methods study to Improve Care for Homeless Veterans at End of Life.  She studied pain management in the long term care setting and among patients with dementia, and has extensive experience leading multi-disciplinary research teams. As Director of the Eastern Colorado VA Health Care System’s Research Enhancement Award Program in Care Coordination (CRICC), Dr. Hutt led research on the critical problem of poor care coordination for the > 200,000 veterans who require support from VA beyond acute hospitalization and outpatient clinic visits. A core of 11 faculty physician and nurse investigators, statisticians, economists and other social scientists pursued health services research projects under her leadership in the areas of (1) improving quality of life and care for veterans entitled to long-term care; (2) deploying telemedicine, electronic medical record and patient-centered methods to coordinate chronic disease management and prevention across the continuum of care; (3) improving pain management and palliative care across the care continuum. Dr. Hutt currently serves as the primary research mentor for two palliative care researchers at University of Colorado. Dr. Hutt has collaborated on manuscripts and/or grants with Drs. Fink, Bekelman, Allen, Kutner, Fischer, Jones and Levy.

Dr. Mark Laudenslager’s focus is on stress and mental health. Research ranges from the impact of discrimination on mental health in American Indian/Alaskan Natives to regional differences in the stigma of HIV on mental health in women. He is PI of several intervention trials of cognitive behavioral stress management for mitigating anxiety/depression in caregivers and reducing stress-related inflammation and telomere shortening.

Dr. Cari Levy​currently is a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She serves as Director of Palliative Medicine and Associate Director of the Center of Innovation for Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Research at the Denver VA Medical Center. Dr. Levy received her undergraduate degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and her medical degree from the University of Colorado. She completed her residency and served as a chief resident at Vanderbilt University. Her geriatric fellowship and PhD in clinical sciences were completed at the University of Colorado. She is the President-Elect of AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long Term Care and an active member of the American Geriatric Society and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. She has been involved extensively in research with a focus on improving nursing home and end-of-life care for older adults with publications of articles related to this research in Chest, Cancer, Medical Care, JAMA Internal Medicine, The Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, The Gerontologist and the Journal of Hospital Medicine.​  

Dr. Kevin Masters

Daniel D. Matlock, MD, MPH, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora
Colorado Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Group, Denver - is an Associate Professor at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine and Director of the Shared Decision Making Core at ACCORDS (The Adult and Child Consortium for Outcomes Research and Delivery Science). He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatrics, and Palliative care. His research is aimed at fundamentally changing and improving how patients make decisions around invasive cardiovascular technologies. He is currently funded under an NIH career development award, two NHLBI RO1s, and two PCORI projects studying decision making among older adults making decisions around invasive technologies (implantable cardioverter–defibrillators (ICD) and left ventricular assist devices). He is a member of the Colorado Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Group, one of the top outcomes research groups in the country. He has participated in the American College of Cardiology’s shared decision making task force and the writing group for an American Heart Association’s scientific statement entitled “Shared Decision Making in Heart Failure.” He is also an active participant of the International Patient Decision Aid Standards writing committee. Recently, he has also been named Director of Implementation Research for the recently funded Denver Veterans Affairs Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center.  

T32 postdoctoral fellows:

Jennifer Dickman Portz, PhD, MSW, is currently a NIA T32 postdoctoral fellow in Aging and Palliative Care Research at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.  She is also an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Colorado State University. Dr. Portz received her PhD from the University of Denver and her MSW from Boston College. As a social worker, she spent several years conducting research at the Institute for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Colorado. Her mission is to advance social work research in geriatric palliative care by developing digital health interventions that can be used by older adults with advanced illnesses, their caregivers, and family to effectively improve patient-family centered outcomes. To achieve this goal, her current research targets three related areas: 1) identification of outcomes and needs important to patients with chronic disease and advanced illness 2) creation, study, and dissemination of digital health for older adult users, and 3) chronic disease self-management. 

Kathleen Bickel, MD, MPhil, MS​, is a former Assistant Professor of Medicine at the White River Junction VA and Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, as well as the being the medical director of the White River Junction VA palliative care consult team. She completed her Internal Medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, followed by fellowship training in Hematology/Oncology and Hospice and Palliative Medicine at the University of Michigan. She also completed a Masters of Science in Health Outcomes and Quality Research at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in June 2016. She has served on the Quality of Cancer Committee for the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Quality Task Force for the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and was the project lead for “Defining high-quality palliative care in oncology practice: an ASCO/AAHPM Guidance Statement,” published in the Journal of Oncology Practice in 2016. Her T32 project proposal is to examine differences in end-of-life Veterans Affairs healthcare utilization in United States Veterans with and without a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.   ​

Sean M. Reed, PhD, APN, ACNS-BC, ACHPN,​ is an Assistant Professor and Palliative Care Research Fellow at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine. He is a board certified advanced practice nurse in adult health and palliative care. His professional background in nursing includes working with Veterans and extensive work in community hospice, palliative care, geriatrics, and leadership. Prior to coming to the University of Colorado, Reed created and designed palliative care programs in the acute, post-acute, and ambulatory settings for the largest health care system in Colorado. His research interest is focused in ​palliative care econometrics including data modeling and secondary use of data for program sustainability.​

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Goals and Objectives Curriculum
All T32-funded trainees will be postdoctoral physician scientists or PhD scientists who have indicated substantial interests in learning translational or clinical research that is relevant to aging and palliative care.  Upon completion of the program, the trainees will be expected to have mastered basic technical aspects of research and to have progressed to an independent stage of developing their own ideas and projects.

Curriculum: Personalized Formal Research Training

Coursework: As a T32 trainee, you will be required to take the following courses or equivalent (or demonstrate equivalent prior training):

Course Name (all courses are semester long)

Course number

Credits (total 15)

Applied Biostatistics I and II

BIOS 6601 and 6602

3 credits each

Design of Clinical Trials and Experiments

CLSC 6648

3 credits

Introduction to Health Information Technology

CLSC 6800

3 credits

Scientific Writing (grants & manuscripts)

CLSC 7101 and 7102

1 credit each

Critical Appraisal Seminars in Clinical Science

CLSC 6270

1 credit

 

As required by the NIH, you must complete 8 hours of training in the responsible conduct of research.  This requirement may be fulfilled by taking the CLSC courses 7150 (Ethics) and 7151 (Responsible Conduct of Human Research), the PHCL course 7605 (Ethics in Research) or the BIOS course 7605 (Ethics: Computational Bioscience Research) or via the seminar series offered by University of Colorado Clinical research Support Center http://www.ucdenver.edu/research/ORC/RI/Pages/rcrt.aspx .  This requirement must be completed in Year 1 of the award.​

Additional courses will be selected from the CLSC catalogue by the trainee and his or her mentor(s) to best fit the future research goals of the trainee.  The course work plan will be part of the required Career Development Plan (CDP).  T32 trainees will have the option of completing the requirements for award of a Master's degree in Clinical Investigation.

Minimum Expectations for ALL T32 Trainees

       Attend the weekly T32 faculty and trainee seminar, present research in progress and actively participate in providing feedback to colleagues.

       Present research to a topic-relevant research seminar (as agreed to with mentors) at least once per year.

       Develop at least 1 research project with their mentor(s), including proposed timelines and productivity benchmarks as part of a written Research Career Development Plan (see below).

       Participate in weekly meetings with primary mentor (or senior/junior mentorship dyad) and with entire Mentorship Committee (at least twice yearly).

       Attend other relevant conferences (e.g. University of Colorado Palliative Care Conference (UC-PCC), Geriatrics Grand Rounds)

       Assume responsibility for presenting at Palliative Care Journal Club as assigned and presenting at the UC-PCC at least twice each year.

       Completion of required courses and other didactic training as determined by the needs assessment delineated in the Career Development Plan.

       Submission of required review materials to document progress (twice yearly).

       Presentation of abstracts at relevant national professional meetings.

       Maintain contact with the T32 following training for collection of data on presentations, publications, grants, degrees and academic positions.


Application Process 

Please provide the following application components​:
  • Application form​ (PDF - requires Acrobat Reader)
  • Letter of Interest
  • NIH format Biosketch with personal statement (CV or resume accepted)
  • 3 Letters of recommendation
  • 3-page Goals Statement
  • 3-page Project Description

 Please refer to the flier​ for more information.

Send materials to:

Shaleeta Pearson
General Internal Medicine
Department of Medicine
Academic Office 1, room 8407
12631 E 17th Ave, Mail Stop B180
Aurora, CO  80045

Phone: (303) 724-2261
Fax: (303) 724-2270
Shaleeta.Pearson@ucdenver.edu