To advance primary care, UB receives $6 million in grants

Funds will enhance clinical and translational science at UB with efforts to improve efficiency, workforce diversity and collaboration among primary care providers

Release Date: July 26, 2016

Daniel Morelli.
“Primary care is the discipline that sorts through what’s going on with patients and steers them into the right care mode, warding off additional health challenges and additional expense. ”
Daniel Morelli, MD, Chair, Department of Family Medicine
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Primary care is crucial to public health. Primary care providers deliver preventive care and help patients manage chronic illnesses, but they are in short supply nationally as well as in Western New York.

To advance this critical field, the Department of Family Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo applied for, and was awarded, three prestigious grants totaling more than $6 million to support research, training and workforce development.

Daniel Morelli, MD, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and a physician with UBMD Family Medicine, explained why quality primary care is so important. “What makes or breaks any large integrated health system is the quality of the primary care it delivers,” he said. “Primary care is the discipline that sorts through what’s going on with patients and steers them into the right care mode, warding off additional health challenges and additional expense.”

Timothy Murphy, MD, senior associate dean for translational science in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said the grants enhance efforts funded by the $16 million Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) received last fall from the National Institutes of Health. Murphy is principal investigator on that grant, which put UB into a select group of medical schools nationwide focused on accelerating the delivery of new drugs, devices and treatments to patients.

“The primary care research fellowship program interfaces beautifully with the overall vision of our CTSA, which is to perform innovative translational research that will benefit our community,” Murphy said.  “A key element of translational research is testing new interventions at the point of care to assess their impact in communities. Trainees will learn how to design rigorous studies to assess the impact of new interventions, including how primary care is delivered, on the health of the community.”

The two grants focused on workforce development and interprofessional education also address some of the CTSA program’s most critical goals, he added.

“One of the most important priorities in our ability to raise the level of clinical and translational research in the region is to recruit and train a translational research workforce that parallels our community,” said Murphy.  

With underrepresented minorities making up 50 percent of the city of Buffalo’s population and with a large segment experiencing health disparities, the city’s population today, he said, mirrors what the nation will look like demographically in the next 30 years.

“These indicators make Buffalo a ‘population of the future,’” Murphy said. “If we can develop some solutions to these challenges here, Buffalo has the opportunity to be national leader in this area. These training grants are in important step toward this vision.”

The grants are described below.

Primary Care Research Fellowship Training Program: $2 million over five years from the Health Resources & Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Project director: Linda Kahn, PhD, UB professor of family medicine and vice chair of research, Primary Care Research Institute.

Purpose: The grant will allow UB to create and administer a postdoctoral-level training program in translational research in primary care. Trainees will help to document in a rational, scientific way which primary care interventions work and which do not.

The funding will provide training for about a dozen postdoctoral-level candidates recruited by generalist clinical units and primary care-related disciplines in units funded by the CTSA. Fellows will learn how to conduct health services research, a multidisciplinary field that examines how people access health care practitioners and services, how much that care costs and what happens to patients as a result.

Based in the Primary Care Research Institute in UB’s Department of Family Medicine, the training program will be a collaboration between the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the School of Nursing, the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the School of Public Health and Health Professions, the School of Social Work and the School of Management.

Funding for workforce development: $2.077 million over three years from the New York State Department of Health.
Project director: Leishia Smallwood, director of the New York State Area Health Education Center (AHEC) system, based in the UB Department of Family Medicine.

Purpose: This grant enables AHEC to continue cultivating a workforce that more closely matches the diversity of the state’s population, and to assure that each community has enough practitioners in the right categories, especially primary care.  AHEC strategies keep skills and talents in the state, contributing to the health of the economy while improving the health and well-being of all New Yorkers.

AHEC exposes students, from middle school to graduate school, to careers in health care through opportunities that range from summer camps to internships and job shadowing. It also helps students obtain clinical training with minority and disadvantaged populations, in rural areas and urban neighborhoods. This helps underserved communities gain qualified professionals, as workers often return to practice where they have trained. AHEC also connects communities to better health, collaborating with schools, economic development agencies and health care institutions and practitioners to address each community’s specific needs.

Funding to advance interprofessional education in primary care: $2,485,812 over five years from the Health Resources & Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Project director: Andrew Symons, MD, UB clinical associate professor of family medicine.

Purpose: This grant will enable UB to establish a primary care training program that focuses on improving interprofessional education, helping trainees understand how to contribute to, and interact with, the other members of the care team to benefit patient health. The goal is to transform clinical training to improve quality and population health while reducing unnecessary costs.

More than 1,000 health profession students, including medical, nursing and physician assistant students as well as medical residents and community providers, will be trained. Partners with UB include the physician assistant program at D’Youville College, Jericho Road Community Health Center and HEALTHeLINK, the region’s health information exchange.

These students will be deployed to UBMD and community practices, where they will work with faculty and medical residents on interprofessional teams that manage the care of patients with chronic illnesses or other risk factors, with the goal of keeping these individuals healthy and out of the hospital. 


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