Meet Our K12 Research Scholars

2020 Scholar

Connor Drake, PhD 

Dr. Drake sees his research as part of a state- and nation-wide movement to reimagine the role and responsibility of health systems to the communities they serve. He believes that if health systems want to improve health, they have to reorganize health care delivery to play a more expansive role and provide ‘whole-person’ care. For example, clinicians could screen for the social drivers of health along with the biological cause of disease, because the two are so intertwined. Treating diabetes would include managing a patient’s blood sugar along with addressing mental health and social needs like depression or food and housing insecurity, or treating a child with asthma might include removing mold from the apartment. In contrast to reactive health care, Dr. Drake calls this personalized, proactive health care; it provides self-management support, integrates emerging technologies, and fosters peer support by building patient communities.

For his K12, Dr. Drake will build on his PhD research with the Durham VA and Lincoln Community Health Center, entities that have consistently taken risks to improve health outcomes. He will develop approaches to screen for social needs and give patients a more prominent role in their care to ensure it is responsive to their values, preferences, and needs. Different types of mixed methods will support the implementation of value-based care delivery reform and give policy makers evidence-based tools that incentivize adoption by local and national health systems. Dr. Drake believes that if researchers can demonstrate that these interventions improve outcomes, are cost-effective, and can be scaled, there will be considerable uptake by health systems.

He feels lucky being in North Carolina, a state that wants to buy ‘health’ not health care, and to do research at the VA, a system that expects innovations in healthcare delivery to be implemented and integrated quickly. He couldn’t ask for a more fitting opportunity or better K12 mentorship team.  

Dr. Drake received his doctoral training in Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. His training and research interests sit at the intersection of implementation science, population health management, evidence-based care, primary care redesign, and health equity.

2019 Scholars

Hannah Lane, PhD

Dr. Lane’s K12 research project is a continuation of the postdoctoral research she started at the University of Maryland, where she worked on a USDA-funded childhood obesity prevention study called “Wellness Champions for Change.” Its primary goal was to test the impact of wellness policy implementation on students’ physical activity, healthy eating, and weight outcome. To maximize reach, the team worked with public elementary and middle schools participating in school meals programs (a majority of U.S. children attend public schools), that based on federal mandates, must follow their district’s wellness policy, which outlines nutrition, physical education, and physical activity policies.

Because policies are only effective when adequately implemented, the study recruited teacher “Wellness Champions” and Student Leaders, who in their first year with the research team, learn how to get administration and teacher buy-in for policy implementation, and in their second year, continue the initiative with assistance on an as-needed basis. During her fellowship, Dr. Lane incorporated a mixed methods monitoring system to track the unique implementation conditions and processes in each of the recruited schools. In addition, she successfully secured NIH funding to evaluate the impact of Wellness Champions for Change on the Student Leaders involved in implementation.  

During her K12, Dr. Lane wants to delve deeper into the implementation data of her postdoctoral research and continue her work with her University of Maryland partners to understand why some schools were successful and others not. She will then use the findings to develop adaptable strategies, taking into consideration the implementation perspectives of the different stakeholders, the schools’ varied contexts, and the student's unique needs. Being surrounded by a team of Duke’s implementation science experts, she will gain the practical application piece—learning how to design robust implementation studies, how to engage stakeholders in practical and innovative ways, and how to optimize the implementation of research-driven policies in complex settings (like schools). At the conclusion of her K12, Dr. Lane hopes to secure NIH funding focused on advancing child health equity through stakeholder-driven policy implementation in child-serving settings.  

Dr. Lane received her PhD from Virginia Tech and MPH from George Washington University

David Ming, MD

Dr. David Ming is a medicine and pediatric hospitalist who completed residency training in combined internal medicine and pediatrics at Duke and has been a Duke Department of Medicine and Pediatrics faculty member since 2011. Dr. Ming’s research interests include implementation science, learning health systems, population health for medically complex children, and the integration of digital health innovations into clinical care. His research is informed by the belief that the health of children and parents/families are enmeshed, and the best outcomes result when the needs of both are supported. This is especially true for children with medical complexity (CMC), a population with multiple chronic conditions and functional limitations that require multi-specialty care, round-the-clock home care, and frequent hospitalizations. In order to improve care for CMC, Dr. Ming and his colleagues, in collaboration with Duke University Hospital leadership, founded the Duke Children’s Complex Care Service, an interdisciplinary program that has delivered patient/family-centered care management and direct clinical care to over 140 patients. As a result of this program, patients have achieved better clinical outcomes and a better patient/family experience—all at a lower cost. The program continues to thrive as a key service for CMC at Duke.

Building on Dr. Ming’s success in clinical program development and innovation, his K12 award will provide formal training in implementation science and learning health system research methods that will facilitate scaling up evidence-based interventions for the care of complex children and adult populations. He plans to conduct studies of the implementation of care integration for medically complex children in primary care, implementation of digital health innovations (e.g., telemedicine video visits), and exploration of the intersection between social and medical complexity to better understand the adverse social drivers of health faced by CMC patients and families.

Dr. Ming received his MD from the University of Texas, Medical Branch at Galveston

Neha Pagidipati, MD, MPH

Dr. Pagidipati is a cardiologist who likes to get into the weeds. Her research marries the use of electronic health records (EHR) and implementation science to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) in patients with co-morbidities. She sees the failure to prescribe available life-saving drugs as a large gap in care, which sounds like there would be a simple fix, but Dr. Pagidipati thinks the situation is actually more complicated. In our complex health care system, there are problems at the system-, provider-, and patient-levels, and incentives don’t always align with the patient’s best outcome.

Dr. Pagidipati will use her K12 to gain critical training in the implementation of scientific methods and to gain hands-on experience with several implementation projects. These will include a national cluster-randomized trial of cardiology clinics to improved evidence-based care of patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease and a health-system-based project to improve dyslipidemia management across the Duke Health System. She intends to seek additional NIH funding to explore the sustainability of these approaches.

Dr. Pagidipati received her MD and MPH from Harvard University.

2018 Scholars

Jamie Hughes, PhD, MPH, MSW

By addressing upstream determinants of functional decline, Dr. Hughes’ aims to preserve older adults’ functional independence and ability to age in place. That said, her K12 will work to increase access to behavioral sleep-activity interventions in both the VA and the community. Her work will build upon two randomized clinical trials completed while she was at the Los Angeles VA in which her team established the efficacy of two different brief behavioral sleep interventions to improve sleep outcomes in complex older veterans. In order to disseminate these programs throughout the VA, she will adapt these previously tested, in-person interventions into telehealth-delivered programs, with the theory that employing alternative modes of program delivery will help increase access to these sleep programs and become a model for delivering health promotion programs for older adults without regular access to a major VA Medical Center or community center. Dr. Hughes will also explore opportunities to adapt her original program from VA Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) into local home- and community-based programs. Her mentorship team includes collaborations from the Department of Population Health Sciences, Division of Geriatrics, and the Durham VA. Dr. Hughes received her PhD from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and her MPH and MSW from the University of Michigan.

Dr. Jamie Hughes Discusses Her K12 Experience

Helen Vilme, DrPH, MPH, MS

Dr. Vilme’s K12 focuses on farm-to-university programs at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with the intent of improving the health and lifestyle of their students. She chose to focus on HBCU students because of the high number of African Americans in attendance and because their greater population suffers from chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke at younger ages and higher rates than white Americans. Additionally, research shows that students are not consuming the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. Her goal is to make healthy options accessible so students can make healthy choices—breaking the generational cycle of bad diet and poor health and building a blueprint for future farm-to-university programs.

Dr. Vilme received her doctoral degree in public health from Florida A&M University.

Read a Q&A with Dr. Vilme