The CICADA scientists of the 2023-2024 cohort are Shekinah A. Fashaw-Walters, PhD; Kyra O’Brien, MD; and Shana D. Stites, PsyD, MA.

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

Established on the Penn campus within the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) six years ago, CICADA was initially funded by a five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) as a Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (RCMAR). That grant has just been renewed for another five years. The RCMAR program is a multidisciplinary research initiative aimed at improving the diversity of the HSR workforce studying aging and health care issues.

The three new grantees for the 2023-2024 CICADA cohort are:

Shekinah A. Fashaw-Walters, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Division of Health Policy & Management at the University of Minnesota. Her CICADA pilot project is “The Impact of Home Health Market-Based Reforms on Racialized Inequities in the Timely Initiation of Care.”

Kyra O’Brien, MD, an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine. Her CICADA pilot project is “Improving Current and Future Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) Outcomes Through Equity-Focused HSR.”

Shana D. Stites, PsyD, MA, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Her CICADA pilot project is “Understanding Modifiers of Subjective Cognitive Complaints (SCCs) to Further Health Equity in Pre-Clinical Alzheimer’s Disease.”

CICADA Leadership Expanded

The LDI CICADA program has also expanded the leadership of its Administrative Core. The Multiple Principal Investigators are Meghan Lane-Fall, MD, MSHP; Allison Willis, MD, MS; and Rachel M. Werner, MD, PhD. Research Education Component Co-Directors are Adriana Perez, PhD, CRNP, and Mary Naylor, PhD, RN. Analysis Core Co-Directors are Norma Coe, PhD, and Rebecca Hubbard, PhD.

Launched in 1997 with centers at a handful of universities, the NIA’s national RCMAR program has 18 research and training facilities across the country. Each center focuses on a different aspect of aging and health care. Penn’s program is one of a few that focuses on the discipline of health services research and 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 26 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 Penn LDI and 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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