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The Catalyst

Center receives funds, improves care for minority vets

By Cindy Abole
Public Relations

Charleston’s Health Equity and Rural Outreach Innovation Center received funding to conduct research on health disparities and access to care for minority veterans.

VHA Center of Innovation

The Health Equity and Rural Outreach Innovation Center – Leonard Egede, M.D., director (internal medicine); Kenneth Ruggiero, Ph.D., associate director (psychiatry); Ron Acierno, Ph.D. (psychiatry); Neal Axon, M.D. (internal medicine); Libby Dismuke, Ph.D. (internal medicine); Mulugeta Gebregziabher, Ph.D. (biostatistics & epidemiology); Anouk Grubaugh, Ph.D. (psychiatry); Michael Horner, Ph.D. (psychiatry); Chanita Hughes-Halbert, Ph.D. (psychiatry); Kelly Hunt, Ph.D. (biostatistics); Flo Hutchison M.D. (medicine); Rebecca Knapp, Ph.D. (biostatistics); Cheryl Lynch, M.D. (internal medicine); Kathy Magruder, Ph.D. (psychiatry); Charlene Pope, Ph.D. (nursing); Sandip Prasad, M.D. (urology); Shakaib Rehman, M.D. (internal medicine); Liz Santa Ana, Ph.D. (psychiatry); Lisa Sternke, Ph.D. (nursing); Nichole Tanner, M.D. (pulmonary); Peter Tuerk, Ph.D. (psychiatry); and Janet York, Ph.D. (nursing)

In May, Charleston’s Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center was named among 19 nationally funded Veteran Health Administration Centers of Innovation that have committed to promote research and facilitate partnerships that can impact health services research among veterans.

Charleston’s HEROIC program focuses on three areas – equity, access and rural health. The research will cover a range of medical and psychiatric outcomes targeting both the patient and provider.

Twenty-two core investigators, who share appointments at both MUSC and the VA medical center, will explore factors that influence the medical care veterans receive including geography, finances, culture, permanent versus temporary location, and other services.

HEROIC program director Leonard Egede, M.D.

HEROIC program director Leonard Egede, M.D., who is an Allan Johnson Endowed Chair and Professor of Medicine in addition to being the director of the Center for Health Disparities Research, said the program will improve access to care using telehealth technologies and products.

“One of the greatest strengths of Charleston’s HEROIC is the dynamic team of young researchers who are passionate about their work and dedicated to eliminating disparities. As a result, we are a diverse group across expertise, race/ethnicity and gender, leading to our ability to develop innovative ideas with relevance to the field. Our diversity of disciplines and integration with clinical operations provides balance and insight, and creates an environment where we can investigate and impact real world problems,” said Egede.

The team will also be examining web-based, in-home video-conferencing and smartphone applications as a way of accessing patients.

Kenneth J. Ruggiero, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and HEROIC associate director, is equally supportive of this effort.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to continue to move the health disparities field forward. Our Center of Innovation team is passionate about this work and has been successful in developing new ways to bring high quality care to veterans,” said Ruggiero.

A key role of COIN is to facilitate productive partnerships between researchers and those who validate findings.

HEROIC’s research team will test and share interventions, improve methodologies for analyzing data, develop an equity report card using VHA administrative data and refine metrics used to measure access to care.

VA partners in this project include the Offices of Rural Health, Health Equity, Informatics and Analytics, Health Equity and other federal and national organizations.

HEROIC also benefits from a strong partnership with MUSC through the Center for Health Disparities Research, Department of Medicine, Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, College of Nursing, College of Health Professions and the Clinical and Translational Science Awards program.

August 7, 2013

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