The new Penn LDI CICADA scientists are Juan Pablo Atal, PhD, MS; Roman Ayele, PhD, MPH; and Maya Clark-Cutaia, RN, MSN, PhD.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Improving Care Delivery for the Aging (CICADA) has announced three new postdoctoral and junior faculty to become the program’s third cohort of CICADA Scholars, pursuing pilot research and receiving training and mentorship in health services research.

Established on the Penn campus two years ago, CICADA is funded through a 5-year grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) as a new Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (RCMAR).

CICADA is a multidisciplinary research initiative aimed at improving the diversity of the health services research (HSR) workforce studying aging and health care issues.

The three new grantees for the 2020-2021 CICADA cohort are:

Juan Pablo Atal, PhD, MS, an LDI Senior Fellow and Assistant Professor of Economics at Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences. His CICADA pilot will focus on the late enrollment penalty (LEP) of Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that is designed to prevent adverse selection among healthy individuals. The pilot work will evaluate both the extent to which individuals respond to the LEP, and other aspects of the program.

Roman Ayele, PhD, MPH, is a Research Health Scientist at the Veterans Health Administration’s Center of Innovation for Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Care (COIN) in Denver. Her CICADA pilot will study end-of-life health care utilization patterns among veteran decedents with dementia, with an eye to race/ethnicity differences.

Maya Clark-Cutaia, RN, MSN, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Nursing at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. Her CICADA pilot will generate preliminary estimates of the associations between longitudinal symptom assessment via the Dialysis Symptom Index (DSI) and a variety of clinical outcomes among end stage renal disease patients.

“For the past two years, CICADA has played an important role in supporting postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty who are underrepresented in health services research. I am excited to continue that mission by supporting our third cohort of talented scientists,” said CICADA Co-Director Rachel Werner, MD, PhD. Co-director Allison Willis, MD, MS, added, “Supporting the growth of expertise in minority health research is a critical part of developing solutions to the problems of health inequity and health disparities.” Werner is a Professor at both the Wharton School and the Perelman School of Medicine; Willis is an Associate Professor at Perelman.

HSR Focus

Launched in 1997 with centers at a handful of universities, the NIA’s national RCMAR program has18 research and training facilities at universities across the country. Each center focuses on a different aspect of aging and health care. Penn’s is one of a few that focus on the discipline of health services research, the study of how health care delivery is organized, financed, managed, quality-controlled, and regulated.

The essential goal of RCMAR is to recruit, mentor, and develop minority junior faculty members into accomplished research scientists, a process that begins with pilot research projects they undertake with their mentors. Since its founding 21 years ago, more than 400 research scholars have come through the RCMAR program, most going on to academic research careers.

Diverse Perspectives

The broad RCMAR programs are informed by the fact that underrepresented researchers bring essential diverse perspectives and, often, personal experiences to bear in understanding the social, economic, political, and environmental determinants of racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care. According to the federal Office of Minority Health, underrepresentation in research leads to underfunding of health research as well as a lack of culturally appropriate theories, models, and methodologies.

The CICADA program is facilitated through LDI and, through LDI’s network and infrastructure, links to all of Penn’s 12 schools. CICADA mentors are drawn from across the University, creating an interdisciplinary approach to training.

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