Category Archives: Health & Society Scholars

Apr 16 2014
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A Behind the Scenes Look at a Documentary Series on Climate Change

Sabrina McCormick, PhD, is a sociologist, filmmaker, and an associate professor of environmental and occupational health for the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program.

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The first episode of Years of Living Dangerously, a new documentary series exploring the human impact of climate change, aired last Sunday on Showtime. I worked on the series as associate producer and producer, but I am also a scientist who has been studying the impact of climate change on human health for almost a decade. In all that time, I’d developed a good grasp of what climate change looks like from a scientific point of view. But working on the series made me learn a lot more about what climate change looks like, not just here in the United States but worldwide.

This documentary television series consists of nine episodes featuring star correspondents as they meet experts and visit ordinary people who have lived through extreme weather events triggered by climate change. James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Schwarzenegger served as executive producers of the series, along with former 60 Minutes producers Joel Bach and David Gelber. I worked with Matt Damon on an upcoming segment about heat waves and with Michael C. Hall on another story focusing on Bangladesh, a nation already vulnerable to extreme weather.

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Apr 10 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Electronic health records, nurse mentoring, ‘longevity gaps,’ 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 California Action Coalition has developed a mentorship program that is helping prepare the next generation of nurses to serve as leaders on health care reform. The state’s mentorship program dovetails with the 2014 leadership focus of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a national effort backed by RWJF and AARP that is working to transform health care through nursing. “Mentoring is key to strengthening any leader,” Mary Dickow, MPA, tells Nurse Zone. “Having strong mentors in my life helped me think differently and advance. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.” Dickow is statewide director of the California Action Coalition.

A recent interview in the Atlantic with David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, has generated numerous comments from readers weighing in on the merits of electronic health records (EHRs). Blumenthal is former national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. He points out in the interview that EHRs offer “substantial” benefits for patients, but notes that in the short-term, providers incur significant costs and that it will take time to make the transition to EHRs. The Atlantic has now published several articles highlighting reader comments, which can be found here, here, and here. FierceEMR published a story about the give-and-take, which notes that many of the commenters who are skeptical about the value of EHRs are physicians.

RWJF Health & Society Scholars program University of Wisconsin-Madison Site Director David Kindig, MD, PhD, appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Washington, D.C.’s WAMU radio to discuss the “longevity gap,”—the growing gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. Kindig and other guests explore how health care reform and policies to address income inequality might affect the gap.

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Apr 3 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Medical debt disparities, nurses providing primary care, technologies that maximize time with patients, 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:

In a study of women diagnosed with breast cancer, RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumna Reshma Jagsi, MD, PhD, found that Black and Latina patients were more than twice as likely as White patients to have medical debt and to skip treatments due to concerns about costs. Jagsi tells Reuters that “our findings suggest that racial and ethnic minority patients appear to be more vulnerable, as are those who are too young to qualify for Medicare, those who lack prescription drug coverage, those who reduce their work hours after diagnosis, and those with lower household income at the time of diagnosis.”

Expanding nurse practitioners’ role in primary care could help meet new demands on California’s health care system, as millions of previously uninsured residents gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to Susan Reinhard, RN, PhD, senior vice president of the AARP Public Policy Institute. “We should make sure that the nurse practitioners can use every ounce of their talent for what is needed,” she tells the AARP Bulletin. “Consumers should have a choice of different clinicians who will suit their preferences and their needs.” Reinhard is chief strategist for the Center to Champion Nursing in America, a partnership of AARP, AARP Foundation, and RWJF and co-director of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.

At a recent information technology summit, Ann O’Brien, MSN, RN, an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow, discussed her work with Kaiser Permanente to leverage new health care technology to maximize nurses’ valuable time providing patient care. O’Brien explains that “you have to look at what can enable small amounts of change,” because saving seconds with each repeated use of rapid sign-on technology, for example, can mean gaining extra minutes in a day for a nurse to provide direct care, FierceHealthIT reports.

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Apr 2 2014
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RWJF Milestones, April 2014

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

Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, RWJF’s senior advisor for nursing and director of its Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, has been named co-chair of the newly formed External Nurse Advisory Board (ENAB) for the Center for Nursing Advancement (CFNA) at UnitedHealth Group. The goal of the ENAB is to “inform, create and evolve nursing best practices, and advance the nursing profession.”

Angelina Jolie has signed on as executive producer of Difret, a film by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Mehret Mandefro, MD, MSc, AB. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award, then went on to receive the Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. The film tells the story of a young Ethiopian girl who challenges the tradition of “telefa,” the practice of abduction in marriage, usually of young girls. Read more about Mandefro’s film.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has voted Juliann Sebastian, PhD, MSN, its president-elect. Sebastian, an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna, is dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing. She will serve as president of AACN from 2016 to 2018. The organization represents more than 740 nursing schools nationwide.

RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna Jacqueline Stevens, PhD, has been named a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow for the Humanities. Her fellowship is in U.S. History.

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Mar 27 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Cultural barriers to care, medical conspiracies, parenting, 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:

In a Talking Points Memo opinion piece, Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program alumna Paloma Toledo, MD, MPH, writes that while the Affordable Care Act holds the promise of greatly increasing access to care, language and cultural barriers could still stand between Hispanic Americans and quality care. Toledo’s research into why greater numbers of Hispanic women decline epidurals during childbirth revealed that many made the choice due to unfounded worries that it would leave them with chronic back pain or paralysis, or that it would harm their babies. “As physicians, we should ensure that patients understand their pain management choices,” she writes.

More than one in three patients with bloodstream infections receives incorrect antibiotic therapy in community hospitals, according to research conducted by Deverick J. Anderson, MD, an RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumnus. Anderson says “it’s a challenge to identify bloodstream infections and treat them quickly and appropriately, but this study shows that there is room for improvement,” reports MedPage Today. Infection Control Today, FierceHealthcare, and HealthDay News also covered Anderson’s findings.

People’s health and wellness can be linked to their zip codes as much as to their genetic codes, according to an essay in Social Science and Medicine co-authored by Helena Hansen, MD, PhD. As a result, Hansen argues, physicians should be trained to understand and identify the social factors that can make their patients sick, HealthLeaders Media reports. Hansen is an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna.

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Mar 20 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: ADHD medication, reconstruction after mastectomy, care for returning veterans, 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 News reports on a surge in the number of young adult women taking ADHD medication. An RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient, Stephen Hinshaw, PhD, explains that the rise in diagnoses among women in that age group may be evidence of failure to recognize the problem when the women were children. They may not have manifested symptoms as visibly as their male classmates with ADHD did, turning their distress inward rather than misbehaving in class, for example.

“How people with mental disorders are viewed by treatment providers and the general public can have a significant impact on treatment outcomes and the quality of life of clients,” Jennifer Stuber, PhD, and colleagues write in a study reported by Health Canal. The researchers presented vignettes about people with mental health problems to mental health providers and the general public, and compared their reactions. Providers had more positive attitudes, but some held views about the danger such patients might pose in the workplace that the researchers called “concerning.” Stuber is an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna.

More women are having breast reconstruction after mastectomies, USA Today reports. As a result of a 1998 federal law, most group insurance plans that cover mastectomies also cover breast reconstruction. Researchers found that the share of women who received reconstruction after mastectomy rose from 46 percent to 63 percent between 1998 and 2007. Author Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, an RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumna, says the law could be contributing to the increase. The study was also covered by 9 News (Denver) and WKYC.com (Cleveland), among other outlets.

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Mar 13 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Military suicides, easing the path to a BSN, early clues to lung cancer, 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:

Amid growing attention to suicide rates among members of the military, a new series of studies explores the contributing factors, the New York Times reports. One of the studies, on suicides and accidental deaths, was led by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus Michael Schoenbaum, PhD. He identified a host of risk factors, including demotions, low rank, and previous deployment. However, Schoenbaum did not find evidence to support the contention that relaxed recruitment standards had led to the induction of soldiers more likely to commit suicide. The study was also covered in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian, among other outlets.

The North Carolina Medical Journal features an article by Polly Johnson, RN, MSN, RN, FAAN, on the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) initiative. It provides an economically feasible educational pathway between community colleges and universities so that more North Carolina nursing students can achieve a baccalaureate degree at the start of their careers. RIBN is supported by RWJF’s Academic Progression in Nursing initiative.

In her work as a nurse practitioner in a pediatric ICU, Karin Reuter-Rice, PhD, CPNC-AC, has observed that some children with traumatic brain injuries improve rapidly, while others suffer grave and permanent damage, reports Duke Nursing. As a result, Reuter-Rice, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar, is using her RWJF grant for a multi-year research project to determine what neurological differences account for those dramatically different outcomes. She is exploring whether vasospasm, the sudden contraction of blood vessels in the brain, might play a role.

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Mar 6 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Nurse staffing and patient mortality, communicating about vaccines, specialized HIV training for NPs, 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 study led by Linda H. Aiken, PhD, FAAN, FRCN, RN, and covered by CNN.com, finds that hospital nurse-patient ratios and the share of nurses with bachelor’s degrees both have an important impact on patient mortality. Aiken, a research manager supporting the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action and a member of the RWJF Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) National Advisory Committee, found that increasing a hospital nurse’s workload by one patient increased by 7 percent the likelihood of an inpatient death within 30 days of admission. The same research revealed that a 10-percent increase in the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees at a given hospital reduces the likelihood of a patient death by 7 percent. Aiken’s study has also been covered by the Guardian, Philly.com, and FierceHealthcare, among other outlets.

Public health messages aimed at boosting childhood vaccination rates may be backfiring, according to a new study led by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus Brendan Nyhan, PhD. Campaigns that use studies, facts, and images of ill children increased fears about vaccine side-effects among some parents, NBC News reports. In fact, messaging that debunked myths about links between vaccines and autism actually made parents less inclined to have their children inoculated. Time magazine online also covered the study.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing has developed a new curriculum that provides specialized HIV training to nurse practitioners, with funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Medical Xpress reports. “The design of our program starts with the recognition that HIV care cannot be provided in a silo, that it needs to be integrated holistically into primary care," RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, said in a statement. Farley is the developer of the curriculum.

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Feb 27 2014
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Human Capital News Roundup: Risk of increased ADHD labeling, unnecessary emergency department scans, food labeling, 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:

In an op-ed for the New York Times, RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipients Stephen Hinshaw, PhD, and Richard Scheffler, PhD, discuss how a major expansion of early childhood education could have an unintended consequence: a dramatic increase in the number of pre-school age children, particularly from low-income families, who are wrongly diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The writers recently authored a book, The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today's Push for Performance. The Wall Street Journal also covered the book release, among other outlets.

A study by RWJF Clinical Scholars alumnus, Jeremiah Schurr, MD, MHS, identifies five tests commonly performed in emergency departments that are unnecessary for some patients. In an article in Long Island Newsday, Schurr explains that curtailing their use for patients who do not exhibit specific symptoms could reduce health care costs. Schurr’s research shows that the information gleaned from the tests—CT scans and MRIs for certain patients and blood tests for others—can be derived just as effectively through less expensive procedures.

MedPage Today interviews Jason Karlawish, MD, an RWJF Investigator Award recipient, on the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Karlawish emphasizes the importance of accurate diagnosis, proper medication, and family involvement and education. Read more about Karlawish’s work on Alzheimer’s disease on the Human Capital Blog.

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Feb 20 2014
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Human Capital News Roundup: Abuse of prescription opioids, thriving singles, smartphone safety nets, 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:

In suburbs, rural towns, and affluent areas, prescription opioids, such as Oxycontin and Opana, are the most common cause of overdose deaths, Helena Hansen, MD, PhD, writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece. Drug policies that unilaterally curb access to opioids can actually hurt users’ recovery efforts, writes Hansen, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna. The piece was co-authored by Julie Netherland, New York deputy state director, Drug Policy Alliance. It recommends prioritizing public health over punitive responses.

Tina Bloom, PhD, RN, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar, is part of a research team that developed a smartphone app to help domestic violence victims and their friends create safety plans. “This has been so well received by abused women because of the privacy and the chance to learn and weigh information,” Bloom told the Columbia Daily Tribune. “As survivors tell us, the computer doesn’t judge.”

Michigan Daily reports on a recent lecture by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus Patrick Sharkey, PhD, describing his research into how urban violence affects childhood development. Sharkey shared evidence suggesting that children’s exposure to violence in their neighborhoods can negatively affect academic abilities; the conclusion is based on a study he conducted in which children exposed to violence performed significantly lower on a test administered a few days later.

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