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NHLBI K01 Career Development Grants Awarded Drs. Tara Lagu & Mihaela Stefan

by Sharon Glazer, MPH | August 01, 2013
Drs. Tara lagu and Mihaela Stefan, winners of NHLBI K01 Awards
Drs. Mihaela Stefan and Tara Lagu: NHLBI K01 Awardees

Baystate's First Directly Awarded K Grants

Tara Lagu MD, MPH and Mihaela Stefan MD, academic hospitalists in the Center for Quality of Care Research (CQCR), have both recieved K01 Career Development grants from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The total of the two grants approaches $1.5 million. According to Barbara Richard, Director of Sponsored Programs Administration, these are the first K awards to Baystate researchers where Baystate is the prime awardee institution.

Peter Lindenauer MD. MSc, Director of the CQCR and a mentor for both researchers, describes the awards as "a key milestone for young investigators." K awards provide protected time that frees awardees from their usual case load so that they can "work closely with a mentor to develop independent research skills  and gain experience in advanced methods and experimental approaches needed to become an independent investigator."

"Just getting the grants feels like 'winning'," says Dr. Lagu. "It recognizes the strength of our mentor, our institution, and our statistical team." She describes the impact of the awards on their careers, saying, "The next ten years are mapped out. This research is expected to prepare us to compete for R01 funding, and become independent investigators ourselves who will, in turn, be mentors."

Stefan: Improving Outcomes for Patients with Acute Respiratory Failure

The goal of Dr. Stefan's project, funded for four years, is to identify and implement effective treatment strategies for patients hospitalized with acute respiratory failure.

With the aim of improving clinical decision-making and patient outcomes, her retrospective observational study will compare the effectiveness of noninvasive and invasive forms of mechanical ventilation in patients with acute respiratory failure, and will identify predictors for noninvasive ventilation success. She is using clinical data derived directly from the electronic medical records of more than 100 hospitals throughout the U.S. Her project is the first CQCR study to use EMR data.

Stefan, who joined Baystate in 2005, is pursuing a PhD in the Clinical and Translational Science Program at the Tufts Sackler School for Graduate Biomedical Sciences. She is the recipient of the 2013 Lasagna Award for Translational Research.

Lagu: Clinical and Organizational Strategies to Treat Heart Failure Patients

Dr.Lagu's five-year award aims to provide hospitals with the knowledge and tools to implement the most effective clinical and organizational strategies for critically ill patients with heart failure.

Her research, the first large observational study of critically ill patients with heart failure, asks whether there are large variations across hospitals in the outcomes of these patients, and what clinical strategies are being employed by the high-performing hospitals. She will perform statistical analyses of records from a representative sample of more than 300 U.S. hospitals, as well as conduct qualitative interviews with a diverse set of hospital personnel.

Lagu joined Baystate in 2008 after a fellowship in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Her goal is to pursue research that is both clinically relevant and useful in informing health policy decisions that address contemporary problems in the health care system.

Key Role of Mentorship

Drs. Lagu and Stefan credit the experience and dedication of their mentor with being a major factor in being awarded the grants. Dr. Lindenauer is a national leader in health services and outcomes research in the field of hospital medicine, and is the principal investigator of two NHLBI-funded research grants (R18, RC2) and one AHRQ-funded R18. He is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute and on faculty at The Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies.

He, in turn, acknowledges their efforts, saying, "These two awards are the culmination of many years of hard work and dedication on both of their parts. I'm absolutely thrilled for Tara and Mihaela, for the Center, and for Baystate more generally.”

Strong Endorsement of Baystate

Both Stefan and Lagu believe the awards will benefit Baystate. "It improves Baystate's track record," states Dr. Stefan. "That will make it a lot more attractive to researchers and help recruitment."

Lindenauer concurs, saying, "I cannot think of a stronger affirmation of Baystate’s strategy and investment in health care delivery and outcomes research...."