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How Hartford HealthCare Research Is Paving the Future of Health

December 07, 2022

Before big announcements come the work, and Hartford HealthCare cultivates rich clinical research to ultimately improve patient experience, health outcomes and safety.

Led by Rocco Orlando, MD, senior vice president and chief academic officer, and Lizabeth Roper, senior director of research, the projects uncover advances in diagnosis and treatment options, and pave the way for the future.

Hartford HealthCare’s top research areas are:

  • Behavioral health – The Institute of Living has three research centers – Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center headed by Godfrey Pearlson, MD, and Michael Stevens, PhD; Anxiety Disorders Center led by David Tolin, MD; and Clinical Trials Unit under Mirjana Domakonda, MD. Recently, Olin researchers received a $3.2-million National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grant to investigate the effects of social isolation in older patients with schizophrenia; and a $1.4-million NIMH grant to study the path of people with early course psychotic disorders treated in specialty programs. The latter researchers will also identify clinical and biological features, and biological subtypes of psychotic disorders to help predict outcomes and tailor effective treatment.
  • Health equity – HHC launched a research program, funding by the medical staff, to address disparities in healthcare based on race, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status. From 32 letters of intent in 2021, eight were funded. Topics range from reducing disparities in suicide prevention in transgender people to racial, ethnic and sexual orientation representation in male sexual dysfunction educational materials. In addition, ongoing health equity research is underway at:
    • Heart & Vascular Institute, in studies probing racial disparities in transcatheter aortic valve replacement use (Raymond McKay, MD), and improved use of cardiovascular procedures by African Americans and Hispanics (Drs. McKay and Trevor Sutton)
    • Women’s Ambulatory Health Center, probing social determinants of health as a predictor of gestational weight gain (Jessica Mullins, MD), the effect of race on postpartum hemorrhage (Adam Borgida, MD), and implicit bias as a potential barrier to equitable contraceptive care (Sarah Lindsay, MD).
  • Neuroscience – At the Ayer Neuroscience Institute, there are three powerful research areas: stroke, headache and movement disorders.
    • Stroke – Hartford HealthCare, led by Mark Alberts, MD, co-physician-in-chief of Ayer, was awarded a five-year grant to join the National Institutes of Health StrokeNet collaborative, a structure created to facilitate clinical trials for treatment, prevention and rehabilitation nationwide. In addition, research teams are active at Hartford Hospital and St. Vincent’s Medical Center, and studies are conducted in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers. Current MIT studies focus on personalized stroke predictions and prescriptions for cardiovascular patients and using machine learning to determine stroke risk after hospitalization.
    • Headache – Led by Headache Center Director Brian Grosberg, MD, and Research Director Allison Verhaak, PhD, the team is focused on menstrual migraine, remote electrical neurostimulation to treat migraine, and cannabis’ affect on migraine.
    • Movement disorders. The Chase Family Movement Disorders Center, led by Toni DeMarcaida, MD, received research funding from the Davis Phinney Foundation to investigate ways to improve the health of Spanish-speaking patients with Parkinson’s disease. Seven other clinical trials are also underway.
  • Surgical Oncology – Jill Rubinstein, MD, PhD, in collaboration with The Jackson Laboratory, integrates clinical, genomic and imaging data to study tumor similarities and explore the impact of treatment on the tumor ecosystem. Research goals are to understand resistance mechanisms and identify potential treatment. Dr. Rubinstein is studying applications of deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence, in translational oncology. Her work may lead to improved characterization of cancer tumors and better treatment and outcomes.

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