Kennesaw State and WellStar Health System Partner for NIH-funded Health Disparities Research
Thursday, August 29th, 2019
Kennesaw State University and WellStar Health System will together address the bioethical issues faced by individuals experiencing social and/or economic hardships when trying to manage their healthcare needs. This recent research partnership is made possible through a National Institutes of Health grant.
Evelina Sterling, director of research development and strategic initiatives in KSU’s Office of Research, and Jason Lesandrini, assistant vice president of ethics, advance care planning, and spiritual health at WellStar Health System, are studying this aspect of health disparity through a one-year, $113,000 supplemental grant.
“Bioethics transcends advance care planning or communicating with doctors, especially among vulnerable and underserved populations who may already experience barriers and challenges such as transportation, money and insurance issues while accessing prescribed care in their communities,” said Sterling, also assistant professor of sociology and the grant’s principal investigator.
Sterling and Lesandrini will integrate a bioethics component into an already existing NIH-funded project Sterling is working on with KSU colleagues and social work professors Vanessa Robinson-Dooley and Carol Collard. The KSU professors are developing a new self-management and support intervention program called “Healthy Together” for low-income African-American men with multiple chronic conditions living in rural and urban areas of Georgia.
As part of the grant, researchers will interview the men and their healthcare providers to explore themes related to bioethical issues they face as patients and as research participants. Then a bioethics module will be developed based on those interviews and added into the “Healthy Together” program.
A separate training module for clinical and research staff at WellStar Health System will also be included. That is where Lesandrini’s expertise comes into play since he leads WellStar Health System’s ethics program, which provides leadership and resources to promote ethical behavior and decision-making aligned with the mission, vision and values of the health system. Core services include ethics consultation, ethics programming, education and advance planning resources for patients, families and team members.
“A colleague in the ethics field once said, ‘there are no ethics-free zones in healthcare.’ My experience is similar,” said Lesandrini, who serves as co-investigator of the supplement grant. “Values touch everything we do, and it is important for us as a community-based healthcare provider to understand the complex ethics issues faced by one of our most vulnerable and underserved populations.”
Although KSU and WellStar Health System have been involved in a number of research collaborations before, this is the first time the two have received a grant from NIH to partner on a project.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Kennesaw State University in this research endeavor,” said Quincy Byrdsong, executive director of the WellStar Research Institute, the centralized research facility serving WellStar Health System. “Not only will the research have significant impact on the communities we serve, but the collaboration continues to maximize the collective strengths of Kennesaw State University and WellStar Health System in our service to the state of Georgia and beyond.”