By Wendy Sarubbi | October 7, 2021 3:49 pm

The award, which is the first major gift to UCF’s Academic Health Sciences Center, will support eight interdisciplinary faculty research projects.

Eight interdisciplinary faculty research projects — on health topics including pain management, improving provider-patient communication, and intimate partner violence — have received about $300,000 in grant funding through a new partnership between the UCF Academic Health Sciences Center and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation. The donation is the first major programmatic gift to the AHSC since it was created in 2018.

“The Genius grant is a catalyst for bringing together multidisciplinary teams to solve health challenges that cannot be addressed in a single discipline,” says Deborah German, vice president for health affairs and dean of the UCF College of Medicine. “This is just what we need to transform healthcare for all. I am grateful for this gift to our UCF faculty.”

Winners include faculty from all four AHSC units — the colleges of Health Professions and SciencesMedicine and Nursing, as well as Student Health Services — with support from other university entities.

“Thanks to this gift, our interdisciplinary work with colleagues in the Academic Health Sciences Center is being accelerated,” says Christopher Ingersoll, dean of the College of Health Professions and Sciences. “These collaborative faculty projects are aimed at improving interdisciplinary health education and healthcare practices, both areas of translational research that will have an immediate impact.”

Located in Winter Park, Florida, the Genius Foundation supports the arts, education and initiatives improving quality of life. Its gift to the AHSC supports the UCF Genius Innovation Challenge, designed to promote interdisciplinary approaches to innovative, holistic medical education, research and patient care. AHSC leaders say the grants are supporting the key concept behind creation of the center — promoting interdisciplinary research, education and care that will improve health for all.

“These projects bring together multi-disciplinary teams of experts,” says Mary Lou Sole, dean of the College of Nursing. “The outcomes of these diverse projects will provide immediate impact to our Central Florida community and beyond.”

Here are the recipients and their research projects:

“Enhancing Understanding of the Social Determinants of Health Through Hologram-assisted Interdisciplinary Education Simulation Scenarios.”

PI: Peggy Hill, College of Nursing

CO-PI: Barry Hoffman, CHPS, Mindi Anderson, CON, Desiree Díaz, CON, Denise Kay, COM

This project will use innovative hologram technology to train future healthcare practitioners in recognizing how the social determinants of health, such as poverty, racial inequities, unsafe housing and food insecurity, impact disease and healing. Unlike computerized manikins the hologram technology can demonstrate the complexities of diseases and can allow real patients to be beamed in to educational settings. The goal of the project is to educate healthcare practitioners from all disciplines who are trained as effective teams to advocate for equitable care and do their part to decrease healthcare disparities.

“3D Printers for Healthcare Procedural Training and Education”

PI: Mindi Anderson, CONCO-PI: Syretta Spears, CON, Desiree A. Díaz, CON, Boon Peng Ng, CON, Carolyn Buchanan, CHPS, Analia Castiglioni, COM, Javier Rosario, COM

This project would create 3D-printed anatomical models and task trainers to educate students in the three colleges. Simulation is on the rise across healthcare education, however simulators are costly. Creating less expensive 3D models and simulation technologies will allow educators to train more students and increase interprofessional education. The anatomical models can also be used to communicate with patients in clinical settings and provide information at community healthcare events. The project will purchase three 3D printers — one for each college — and begin developing and identifying curricula for using models and trainers in training. The project’s goal is to establish the AHSC as a leader in 3D-assisted training, creation and research.

“Care on Campus (CoC): Screening for Intimate Partner Violence within Student Healthcare Settings”

PI: Bethany Backes, CHPSCO-PI: James Schaus, SHC, Mary Schmidt-Owens, SHC, Lisa Newberry, SHC, Jana Jasinski, COS, Julia O’Connor, CHPS, Amy Reckdenwald, COS, Karina Villalba, COM, Jacqueline Woerner, COS

This project will begin screening all patients a UCF Student Health Services for intimate partner violence and providing support and follow-up to those at risk. This is in response to the Spring 2021 National College Health Assessment on the UCF campus that indicated such violence —including physical and emotional abuse, stalking, sexual harassment, and coercion into sexual contact — was a very real concern for students. Consistently monitoring students for intimate partner violence will allow Student Health Services providers to better support and respond to student needs. Through the project, Student Health Services will hire a victim advocate to provide support and will get a better understanding of intimate partner violence at the university and ways to prevent it.

“Central Florida Huntington Disease Center”

PI: Amber Southwell, COMCO-PI: Bari Hoffman, CHPS

This project begins creating a multidisciplinary care center in Orlando for Huntington disease, the most common genetic neurodegenerative disorder, affecting approximately 1 in 10,000 people of European and Hispanic descent. The center will be in partnership with Nemours Children’s Health, the Orlando VA Medical Center and AdventHealth. There are currently no treatments that can delay onset or slow progression of this devastating, fatal disorder that can destroy voluntary motor control, cognitive function, psychiatric health and even personality. The only existing care centers are in Tampa, Gainesville and Miami. Creating a local center would allow UCF to fill treatment gaps for patients and their families, and become a more sought-after site for research and clinical trials aimed at finding new therapies.

“The Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Collaborative at UCF”

PI: Humberto López Castillo, CHPSCO-PI: Eric W. Scrimshaw, COM, Christopher W. Blackwell, CON

This collaborative is designed to establish sexual and reproductive health research, clinical practice and advocacy collaborations between UCF faculty, staff, and students and the Central Florida community. To foster these partnerships, the project will create 20 “Sex Café” podcasts on sexual and reproductive health topics to provide more information and dispel myths about sexual and reproductive health. The goal of the collaborative is to encourage research and clinical partnerships to improve Central Florida’s sexual and reproductive health and to be a community research on evidence-based information on the topic.

“Interprofessional Pain Curriculum with Emerging Technologies across the UCF Academic Health Science Center”

PI: Carey Rothschild, CHPSCO-PI: James Whitworth, CHPS, Jeffery Cassisi, COS, Kelly Allred, CON

Pain is the most common reason people seek medical care but knowing how to effectively treat pain is often challenging and complex. This project will begin a comprehensive pain education curriculum across healthcare programs at UCF, both undergraduate and graduate. The curriculum will include the how pain is observed and assessed, collaborative approaches to treatment and addressing pain across a person’s lifespan. The goal is to address deficiencies in pain education that have contribute to the high rates of Americans in chronic pain and the abuse of opioids for pain management. A goal of the project is to have the Academic Health Sciences Center train an “army” of providers who can help patients better deal with pain.

“Therapeutic Alliance: Enhancing the Patient-Practitioner Relationship Across Disciplines”

PI: William J. Hanney, CHPSCO-PI: Mindi Anderson, CON, Bari Hoffman, CHPS, Analia Castiglioni, COM, Desiree A. Díaz, CON

Communication lies at the core of any patient-healthcare provider relationship, with good communication leading to a “therapeutic alliance” between the two. However, communication and forming this alliance is not taught routinely across heath professional training. This project will create interprofessional web training courses, advanced coaching sessions using hologram technology, and in-person training that leverages standardized patients (actors) to develop students’ communication skills with their patients. The combination of state-of-the-art virtual patients with the real-human interactions makes this program unique and can establish the AHSC as a leader in providing patient-centered training.

“School Versus Summer Weight-Gain and Health-related Behaviors in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder”

PI: Keith Brazendale, CHPSCO-PI: Jeanette Garcia, CHPS, Susan Quelly, CON, Shawn Lawrence, CHPS, Shilpa Gurnurkar, COM

This proposal brings together a team of diverse AHSC health experts to advance education and research in an area where relatively little is known —  childhood obesity in youth with autistic spectrum disorders. Research shows that young people with developmental disabilities such as autism were 42% more likely to be overweight or obese than neurotypical youth. In addition, emerging evidence has identified summer as a critical window for accelerated weight gain as youth have less structured routines than when they are in school. The study will look at whether consistent structure and routine (which autistic youth tend to prefer to a greater extent than neurotypical youth) can improve health for this medically underserved population. The goal of this study is to develop community-based health programs that can help autistic youth and their families achieve greater health.

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