Research Awards and Honors: August 2017

Massachusetts General Hospital’s talented and dedicated researchers are working to push the boundaries of science and medicine every day. In this series we highlight a few individuals who have recently received awards or honors for their achievements:

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Gaurdia Banister, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN, executive director of the MGH Institute for Patient Care and director of the Yvonne L. Munn Center for Nursing Research, has been named the inaugural incumbent of the Connell-Jones Endowed Chair in Nursing and Patient Care Research. The Department of Nursing and Patient Care celebrated the establishment of the chair June 26 at the Paul S. Russell Museum of Medical History and Innovation. The establishment of the chair is the second endowed chair in the Department of Nursing and Patient Care and will help advance the nursing profession and patient-and-family-centered-care through a diverse range of research programs. (Pictured from left: Britain Nicholson, MD, senior vice president for Development; Margot C. Connell, the donor; Banister; and Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, NEA-BC, FAAN, chief nurse and senior vice president of Patient Care Services)

“It is impossible to put into words how honored and humbled I feel to have been chosen as the Connell- Jones Endowed Chair for Nursing and Patient Care Research. Advancing nursing knowledge and using that knowledge to deliver exemplary patient care is extremely important to me. One of my research interests is understanding and eliminating the barriers that compromise African American nurses and nursing students from achieving their full potential as clinicians and nurse leaders. Although minorities constitute 37 percent of the country’s population, minority nurses make up only 16.8 percent of the total nurse population. The disparity is even greater in leadership positions. Lack of access to health care providers who can deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate care can adversely contribute to existing health disparities. Improving the diversity of the nursing profession to meet the needs of patients and their families and eliminating these disparities are essential.”

GatchelJennifer Gatchel, MD, PhD, Mass General psychiatrist, has received the Outstanding Emerging Researcher Award from the BrightFocus Foundation. She presented her latest research during a June 8 reception and dinner event at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

“Improving the lives of older adult patients with depression, anxiety, and changes in memory and thinking is my central motivation as a Geriatric Psychiatrist and physician scientist. Towards this goal, my research at MGH focuses on better understanding the earliest mood and behavioral symptoms in older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.  I am doing this by using a combination of clinical measures and novel brain imaging technology that enables visualization of disease-associated proteins in the brains of living older adults. The ultimate goal of my research is to translate this knowledge into ways to better prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and to promote healthy brain aging in vulnerable older adults.

I was thrilled and extremely honored to be recognized as the Outstanding Emerging Research Scientist by the Bright Focus Foundation in recognition of my work. This award has provided critical support to me as junior investigator.  It has helped make it possible for me to begin to develop an area of important research to benefit our aging population and their families—central to my mission as a Geriatric Psychiatrist.”

Hata.jpgAaron Hata, MD, PhD, of the Mass General Cancer Center, has received a 2017 Clinical Scientist Development Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The awardees distinguish themselves by the rigor of their research endeavors and their commitment to future excellence as independent clinical researchers in the biomedical field. The award makes possible for recipients to dedicate 75 percent of their professional time to clinical research at a time when they are facing competing priorities as both researcher and clinical care provider.

“My research focuses on understanding how drug resistance develops in lung cancer patients whose tumors have mutations in the EGFR gene. Over the past decade, a number of new “EGFR-targeted” drugs have been developed that are able to initially shrink these tumors, however, they invariably stop working and relapse occurs. We are trying to understand how some cells are able to persist during treatment and ultimately grow back.

I am thrilled to receive a Clinical Scientist Development Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. This award will enable us to generate a high-resolution understanding of how individual tumor cells evolve in patients over the course of treatment. Ultimately our goal is to develop new therapies that can target these surviving cells early before drug resistance is able to develop.”

LiangSteven H. Liang, PhD, of the Department of Radiology, has received the 2017 Early Career Award in Chemistry of Drug Abuse and Addiction from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The award is to facilitate basic chemistry research applied to drug abuse and addiction.

“My scientific interests are radiochemistry, nuclear medicine and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging – a key and fast-growing ground for translational science and precision medicine in patient care. I have developed several novel radiolabeling technologies and PET imaging biomarkers to access important biological targets that were previously inaccessible.

As the recipient of 2017 Early Career Award in Chemistry of Drug Abuse and Addiction (ECHEM award) from NIH, my team will develop and translate new PET biomarkers for imaging an important biological enzyme, monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) in the endocannabinoid system. MAGL inhibition has recently emerged as a therapeutic strategy to treat drug addiction, substance-use disorders as well as neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. I am thankful to the NIH for this support which will help us develop an imaging tool which we hope can be progressed for translational human imaging studies and used to investigate underlying mechanisms of MAGL-linked diseases.”

Pittet.jpgMikael Pittet, PhD, Samana Cay MGH Research Scholar, of the Center for Systems Biology, has received the inaugural MGH Principal Investigator Mentoring Award. This award is given to a principal investigator who has contributed to the success of PhD graduate students at Mass General.

Mikael Pittet’s laboratory at Center for Systems Biology studies the role of the immune system in cancer. Established in 2007, the Pittet laboratory has made several discoveries, which indicate new ways to successfully treat cancer with immunotherapy. Mikael also directs the Cancer Immunology Program at CSB and currently mentors three PhD students.

“I am greatly honored to be the recipient of this inaugural mentoring award. I am lucky to work with the most terrific students, and grateful about the fact that they nominated me. Thank you, team!”

SippoDorothy Sippo, MD, MPH, a Radiologist in Breast Imaging, has been awarded an Association of University Radiologists GE Radiology Research Academic Fellowship Award. The fellowships help radiologists by strengthening the research interest of radiologist-investigators by broadening their opportunities for continuing scholarship and by fostering original clinical and health services research in technology assessment, health and economic outcome methods and decision analysis.

“My project entitled, ‘Development and Assessment of an Automated Outcomes Feedback Application to Optimize Radiologist Performance Using Digital Tomosynthesis with Mammography,’ aims to automatically provide mammographers with feedback about the outcomes of their patients (whether or not breast cancer is ultimately diagnosed). The goal of this feedback is to enable continuous learning integrated into the patient care setting to aid mammographers in providing the highest quality care.

It is thanks to the strength and diversity of our research team, bringing together mentors and collaborators from the MGH Radiology Department, Harvard Medical and Public Health Schools that we have been able to formulate this informatics feedback intervention. It is being built into the electronic system breast imagers use for reporting. The GERRAF will support my study of radiologists using the feedback application for one year, with in-depth quantitative and qualitative analyses. My goal is for it to be an important stepping stone to future independent research funding.”

Grant Program Encourages Innovation and Creativity Among Nurses and Staff

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Recipients of one of the two 2016 IDEA grants – (from left) Jeanette Livelo, Dominic Breuer, Paul Currier, and Lillian Ananian

What does a device that helps to keep patients stable when using the bathroom have in common with a chart that tracks the days since the last infection in the intensive care unit?

These projects were the first recipients of the Innovation Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) at Massachusetts General Hospital last year.

The IDEA grant program was established in 2016 as a way to foster innovative ideas that improve the way care is delivered for patients and families. The program was such a success in its first year that a new call for proposals will open next month.

IDEA grants provide opportunities for nurses and other health professionals in Nursing & Patient Care Services (NPCS) to think creatively about issues they encounter on a daily basis, and how the workarounds they utilize could be applied in a larger context. Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, NEA-BC, FAAN, Chief Nurse and Senior Vice President for Patient Care, spearheaded  development of the program with generous funding from Norman Knight and Kathleen and Ralph Verni.

The first call for IDEA grant proposals went out in August 2016. In its inaugural year, the program received 22 applications and awarded two grants of up to $5,000.   Successful proposals must include measurable outcomes and have a high likelihood of making a significant, sustainable difference in practice, either now or in the future.

Gaurdia Banister, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN, Executive Director, The Institute for Patient Care & Marianne Ditomassi, RN, DNP, MBA, NEA-BC, Director of the Yvonne L. Munn Center for Nursing Research and Executive Director of Patient Care Services co-chaired the IDEA Steering Committee, which made final recommendations for award selection and worked to develop this new program.

Idea grant---Jared Jordan
Jared Jordan

The first award went to neuroscience staff nurse Jared Jordan, RN, for his idea for a specialized device that assists patients using the bathroom. Recognizing that falls were a big safety hazard among patients, he came up with the concept for a harness that would stabilize a patient while toileting. With support from the IDEA award, Jordan is developing a prototype of the device.

The second award went to the team of Lillian Ananian, RN, Jeanette Livelo, RN, Paul Currier, MD, and Dominic Breuer in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU).

To address the issue of higher than average rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) in the MICU, the team implemented a CLABSI flipchart. They drew inspiration from flipcharts typically used in industrial engineering to measure metrics such as the number of days since the last defect in the product line.

Implemented in a medical setting, the CLABSI flipchart visually measures the number of days since the last infection. Grant funding was used to evaluate how implementing the flipchart impacted the unit’s staff culture and patient care.

The call for applications for the 2018 IDEA Grant program is now open. All employees working in Nursing and Patient Care Services are invited to submit proposals containing innovative id

You can find the application online here: http://www.cvent.com/d/j5qdkj.

Any questions can be directed to Mary Ellin Smith, RN, at MESmith@Partners.org.

Celebrating the Important Role of Nurse Researchers at Mass General

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From left: Gaurdia Banister, director of the Munn Center for Nursing Research, Sara Looby, a nurse scientist at the Munn Center and the keynote speaker at Nursing Research Day, and Jeanette Ives Erickson, Chief Nurse and Senior Vice President for Nursing and Patient Care Services

Attendees of the 2017 Nursing Research Day celebration at Massachusetts General Hospital on May 9 certainly had a lot to be inspired by.

The event began with a poster session featuring 45 posters submitted by nurse researchers at Mass General, and concluded with a series of engaging presentations highlighting the important role that nursing research plays in improving patient care.

“As providers, we have patient experiences that influence our careers and are truly impactful,” said keynote speaker Sara Looby, PhD, ANP-BC, FAAN.

Looby, a Nurse Scientist at the Yvonne L. Munn Center for Nursing Research at Mass General, described several such formative experiences in her own nursing career, including an interaction with a young mother who was suffering from a terminal illness. Witnessing that mother’s experience firsthand gave Looby a better understanding of the human response to illness—and the despair, grief and suffering that comes with it.

Looby said her career as a nurse researcher has been guided by the desire to find ways to help patients cope with these feelings, by providing information, support and connections to clinical trials. Many of her research projects started by understanding the needs and concerns of her patients, she explained.

“Our patients are talking. We are asking them on a daily basis how they are feeling, and they are sharing their concerns, thoughts and opinions. In doing so, they are identifying gaps in knowledge that can be solved by asking research questions.”

Looby acknowledged that nurses already have a full plate of responsibilities taking care of patients, but she encouraged them to go the extra mile to pursue research questions as well. “What more can be done? What questions are not answered?”

“Each of you makes a difference every day, small or large, independently or as a team to help patients. So don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others, and don’t be intimidated by the research process.”

Gaurdia E. Banister, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN, Director of the Munn Institute and Executive Director of the Institute for Patient Care at Mass General, spoke about the center’s 25-year effort to establish a structure for nursing research at the hospital and credited Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, NEA-BC, FAAN, the hospital’s Chief Nurse and Senior Vice President for Patient Care, for her unwavering support.

Banister noted that the nursing research posters on display during the event represented a broad cross section of interests, including non-pharmacological approaches to pain management, population-based care and strategies to manage care transitions from the hospital to the community.

She also encouraged nurses to continue their advocacy for science and medicine at a challenging time for both disciplines.

“Staying silent is no longer a luxury we can afford. We all must stand together and support science. At its core, science is a tool for seeking answers, and we must aggressively advocate for the right to do so.”