Department of Emergency Medicine receives first two R01 awards

The UNC Department of Emergency Medicine received its first and second R01 grants last week. Dr. Tim Platts-Mills received a grant to conduct a clinical trial of a shared decision making intervention to improve pain management in older adults; Dr. Michelle Meyer received an award to study stiffening of the arteries as a risk factor for end-organ damage to the brain among Hispanic and Latino adults.

Department of Emergency Medicine receives first two R01 awards click to enlarge Dr. Michelle Meyer
Department of Emergency Medicine receives first two R01 awards click to enlarge Dr. Tim Platts-Mills

Under the leadership of Dr. Jane Brice, the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine has received its first and second R01 grants. Dr. Michelle Meyer has received a grant to study central arterial stiffness (i.e. stiffening of the arteries) as a risk factor for end-organ damage to the brain in Hispanic/Latino adults. Dr. Tim Platts-Mills has received a grant to conduct a clinical trial of a shared decision-making based intervention to improve pain management for older adults with musculoskeletal pain. These awards are the direct product of the outstanding research training environment at UNC including the junior faculty career development BIRCWH (Meyer) and KL2 (Platts-Mills) programs.

Dr. Meyer, a cardiovascular epidemiologist, was hired by Dr. Brice as a research assistant professor in 2016 to help build the research program. With the mentorship of Drs. Gerardo Heiss and Laura Loehr (Department of Epidemiology), Dr. Meyer advanced her expertise on the etiology and sequela of arterial stiffness. The 4 year R01 ($2,962,619) will investigate the relationship of higher central arterial stiffness and structural changes in the brain, reduced cognitive function, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease-associated dementias in over 9,000 participants in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), an ongoing cohort study of U.S. Hispanic/Latinos. Collaborators on the R01 include Drs. Gerardo Heiss (Department of Epidemiology) and Donglin Zeng (Department of Biostatistics).

Dr. Platts-Mills has worked as a clinician in the Department since 2007 and served as Vice-Chair of Research since 2017. Under the mentorship of Dr. Sam McLean, Dr. Platts-Mills developed a foundation of knowledge regarding the epidemiology and etiology of persistent pain following injury among older adults that informed the development of the educational intervention that will be tested in the awarded R01 (5 years, $2,571,263). In addition to Dr. McLean, collaborators on the R01 study include Drs. Morris Weinberger and Sally Stearn from the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and Dr. Frank Keefe, a nationally-recognized pain researcher at Duke.

The Department of Emergency Medicine has had an active research portfolio for the past decade including federal- and state-funded work on improving prehospital care (Dr. Jane Brice), therapeutic hypothermia (Dr. Lawrence Katz), resuscitation (Dr. James Manning), geriatric emergency care (Dr. Kevin Biese), and clinical trials (Dr. Eugenia Quackenbush). The Department is also home to the Carolina Center for Health Informatics (Dr. Anna Waller). However, no Department faculty member had previously received an NIH R01.

Dr. Platts-Mills summarized the Department’s recent success in the following manner: “Dr. Meyer is a tremendously capable researcher. She seems to have perfected the art of thinking about an issue long enough to consider all relevant factors, and then making the right decision and moving forward. She is also a generous and thoughtful colleague, and a pleasure to work with. As to my own success, let’s just say that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall off the bike, as long as you get back on afterwards. I am incredibly fortunate to have had Sam McLean as a mentor and friend in these efforts, and to have the support of Dr. Brice. I could not have done this without either of them. Michelle and I are honored to have the opportunity to continue our efforts to generate new knowledge to improve human health.”

Several other members of the Department are also making strides with their research. Dr. Montika Bush was recently awarded a Simmons Scholarship to understand the use and impact of mental health services in myocardial infarction survivors. Dr. Mehul Patel is studying the prehospital care for patients with cardiovascular emergencies, including an NC TraCS-funded feasibility trial of a novel intervention to improve outcomes for patients with acute myocardial infarction. Both Drs. Bush and Patel have recently submitted NIH career development awards to the NIH. Dr. Brice describes the Department’s investment in research as a long-term investment, “Developing the supporting data and collaborations needed to compete successfully at the NIH takes a lot of time and effort. It’s thrilling to see this work pay off. This research extends the reach of our overall mission to provide outstanding emergency care.”