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Core Faculty

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Christine S. Ritchie, MD, MSPH

Founding Director

Christine Ritchie, MD, MSPH is Professor of Medicine and the Kenneth L. Minaker Chair of Geriatric Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a board-certified geriatrician and palliative care physician and conducts research focused on optimizing quality of life for those with chronic serious illness and multimorbidity. She has provided geriatric and palliative care to functionally impaired, seriously ill patients with multiple co-occurring conditions and those with dementia for the past two and a half decades.

Her research focuses on patients with complex serious illness and multimorbidity and involves the assessment of patient and caregiver outcomes related to symptoms physical, cognitive and social function among older adults in multiple settings. As a clinician investigator, she has experience in informatics, mixed methods research, clinical trials and implementation science. Dr. Ritchie serves as MPI of the National Institute for Nursing Research-funded Palliative Care Research Cooperative (PCRC) and directs the PCRC Investigator Development Center. She is co-founder and co-director of the Home-based Primary Care Learning Network with co-investigator Dr. Bruce Leff.

She serves as Director of Research for the Division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine at MGH and directs the MGH Mongan Institute Center for Aging and Serious Illness Research.

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Vicki Jackson, MD, MPH

Chief of the Division of Palliative Care

Dr. Jackson is the Blum Family Endowed Chair in Palliative Care and the Chief of the Division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine at MGH and Professor in the Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (HMS).  She also serves as the Co-Director of the HMS Center for Palliative Care. She was the founding Director for the Harvard Palliative Medicine Fellowship. She completed residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine at The Cambridge Hospital, HMS. She pursued training in research methods through the Harvard General Medicine Fellowship and completed a Master’s in Public Health at The Harvard School of Public Health. She completed training in palliative care at The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

 

Dr. Jackson is the Palliative Care lead investigator and mentor on numerous studies funded through NIH, NCI, and PCORI investigating the effect of early, integrated palliative care for patients with advanced cancer. In 2019, she was the recipient of the prestigious Harvard Medical School A. Clifford Barger mentoring award. She is the co-author of the book Living with Cancer: A step by step guide to coping medically and emotionally with a serious diagnosis, published by Johns Hopkins University Press and What’s in the syringe? Principles of early Integrated Palliative Care published by Oxford University Press 2022. Nationally she serves as Secretary of the Board for the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Vicki is married to a lovely endocrinologist named Phil who has a special love for the adrenal gland. She has two teenagers Hannah and Sam and a golden retriever named Millie and a very large (some might say overweight) cat named Toby. She is originally from a small town in Northern Wisconsin.

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Ana-Maria Vranceanu, PhD

Director of Innovation, Intervention and Implementation

Dr. Vranceanu is a clinical health psychologist, Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, and Founding Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Interdisciplinary Research (CHOIR) at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School (MGH/HMS). She is also the James and Elizabeth Gamble Endowed Chair Co-Director (Psychiatry) for MassGeneral Neurosciences and Co-director for Grants Consultation and Support within the Department of Psychiatry. She is an expert in mind-body and lifestyle intervention development and testing as well as in-person and live video mind-body and lifestyle modification programs, which are integrated within medical practices, hospital systems, and communities to: 1) preserve overall health, 2) promote recovery after injury or surgery, and 3) optimize management of chronic illness. She works with individuals, caregivers, and patient-caregiver dyads.

 

Dr. Vranceanu has served as Principal Investigator (PI) for over 20 research grants and has published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles. She is currently PI on several federally funded projects including: Active Brains Digital (NIA R01); Doorstep (NCCIH 34 with Cale Jacobs); Resilient Youth with Neurofibromatosis (DoD R01); Resiliency in Adults with Neurofibromatosis (DoD Ro1); Recovering Together (NINR R01); and Toolkit for Optimal Recovery (NCCIH R01). Dr. Vranceanu has a mid-career mentoring award (NCCIH K24) focused on mentoring interdisciplinary trainees at MGH and nationally. Dr. Vranceanu actively mentors clinical psychology interns as part of the CHOIR Track of the MGH Internship in Clinical Psychology as well as postdoctoral fellows, medical residents, and junior faculty members. She developed and runs a “K club” that includes 15 mentees from various disciplines who are either K awardees or in the process of preparing or submitting K awards. In her free time, she enjoys running, swimming, and spending time with her family and friends.

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Dr. Tamra Keeney completed her PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Professions and was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Dr. Keeney is now a faculty member at the Mongan Institute Center for Aging and Serious Illness Research and Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Keeney conducts health services research and is interested in the relationships between frailty, function, and outcomes for persons with chronic diseases. She is studying the role of palliative rehabilitation in improving quality of life for older adults with advanced heart failure. She also leads evaluation of the MGH Perioperative Surgical Care for Seniors program. Dr. Keeney is clinical lead of the Center for Aging and Serious Illness Data Core.

Tamra Keeney, PhD, DPT

Clinician Scientist,

Data Core Co-Director

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Dr. Lisa LaRowe is a research faculty member at the Mongan Institute Center for Aging and Serious Illness and Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. LaRowe completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Syracuse University and her predoctoral clinical psychology internship in Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine at the Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University. She subsequently completed an NIA F32-funded postdoctoral fellowship in the Center for Health Promotion and Health Equity at the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. LaRowe’s research program employs a multi-method approach to explicate mechanisms underlying health behavior change among midlife/older adults with chronic pain, and to develop tailored intervention approaches to promote adherence to healthful behaviors (e.g., substance cessation, physical activity) among this population. The ultimate goal of this work is to optimize healthy aging by reducing the burden of chronic pain (e.g., disability, comorbidity), and by improving the well-being and quality of life of aging adults with chronic pain.

Lisa LaRowe, PhD

Instructor in Investigation,

Coaching & Consulting Core Co-Director

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Joanna Paladino, MD

Physician Investigator,

Coaching & Consulting Core Co-Director

Joanna (Jo) Paladino, MD is a palliative care physician and faculty investigator at the Mongan Institute Center for Aging and Serious Illness at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Paladino has focused her career on designing, studying, and spreading a system-level serious illness communication intervention (Serious Illness Care Program, SICP) that includes structured communication tools, clinician skills training, and systems-innovations, including EHR integration. She has partnered with health systems and national organizations to adapt, implement, and study SICP across specialties, clinical settings, and diverse patient populations. Dr. Paladino has experience with intervention design, implementation toolkit development, mixed-methods research, and implementation and delivery science. This work has contributed to a growing knowledge base about serious illness communication impact, adaptation, and implementation. Dr. Paladino serves as a co-investigator on several federally funded projects, including: SCOPE Leukemia (PCORI, El-Jawahri (PI)) and Equity in Caregiving (NINR, Tjia (PI)). She teaches courses at Harvard Medical School in communication skills, train-the-trainer, and implementation. Dr. Paladino lives with her husband and son in Boston, Massachusetts. 

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Laura Petrillo, MD is a palliative care physician-investigator in the Division of Palliative Care and Geriatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She completed medical school, internal medicine residency, and a palliative care fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco and a Veterans Affairs Quality Scholars fellowship at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. Dr. Petrillo's research focuses on improving palliative and supportive care for adults living with advanced cancer in the precision medicine era. She has received grants from the National Cancer Institute, the American Lung Association, the American Society of Clinical Oncology Conquer Cancer Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. Dr. Petrillo is the Co-Chair of the National Lung Cancer Roundtable Survivorship Task Group and a past chair of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Early Investigator Forum

Laura Petrillo, MD

Physician Investigator

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 Dr. Shah’s research helps older adults make individualized treatment decisions when they face high-stakes medical decisions like deciding to use blood thinners or undergo a medical procedure. His work helps physicians and patients make medical decisions accounting for the whole person. Dr. Shah works collaboratively with patient groups, physicians, nurses, statisticians, informaticists, economists, and epidemiologists. ​ After attending Yale Medical School, Dr. Shah completed his residency, chief residency, and research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. His research has garnered national awards from the American Heart Association and the American College of Physicians. Additionally, Dr. Shah serves as an expert advising the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service and the National Quality Forum. His research is funded by the National Institutes on Aging.

Sachin J. Shah, MD, MPH

Physician Investigator

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Sevdenur Cizginer, MD, MPH, AGSF

Physician Investigator

Dr. Sevdenur Cizginer, MD, MPH, AGSF, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS) in Boston, Massachusetts. She is double board-certified in Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine and serves as a physician-scientist at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness (CASI) at the Mongan Institute, HMS. She is a nationally recognized leader in geriatric surgery and collaborates with the American College of Surgeons Leadership team to implement evidence-based geriatric surgery standards throughout U.S. hospitals.Her work has garnered numerous local and national recognitions. Notably, she received the 2020 Charles C.J.Carpenter, M.D., Outstanding Physician of the Year Award at Brown University as the youngest recipient to date. Most recently, she was awarded a highly competitive “K76 Paul B. Beeson Emerging Leaders Career Development Award in Aging” from the National I nstitute on Aging.

 

Her Beeson project focuses on the adaptation and implementation of a care transition model to improve post-discharge care for older colorectal cancer surgery patients. Utilizing qualitative and mixed methods through an implementation science approach, the project is conducted in collaboration with national research leaders. Dr. Cizginer is married, has three young children, and resides in Sharon, MA.

Research Fellows
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Lien Quach, MD, PhD

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Lien Quach, MD, PhD, is a Gerontologist and Research Scientist at the Medical Practice Evaluation Center (MPEC) and the Center for Aging and Serious Illness; and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Gerontology at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston. She was born in Vietnam, she practiced geriatric medicine there for ten years before moving to the US to earn an MPH degree at Brown University and her Ph.D. in Gerontology at the UMass Boston. ​Her research interests focus on the social determinants of health, specifically how social (dis)connection patterns relate to mental health, physical function, and quality of life in older adults. Her work seeks to understand the unique roles social isolation, network characteristics, and social support play in health outcomes in older adults, including people living with HIV/AIDS both in the United States and globally. She also has expertise in designing and analyzing surveys using survival analyses, generalized estimating equations, moderation, mediation analyses, network analysis, and measurement modeling.

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Ferhat Yildiz, MD

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Ferhat Yildiz, MD, is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness, Mongan Institute, Harvard Medical School. He recently earned his medical degree from Hacettepe University School of Medicine in Turkey. Currently, he serves as a project manager under the mentorship of Dr. Sevdenur Cizginer. His work centers on Dr. Cizginer's NIA K76 Paul B. Beeson project, which aims to adapt and implement a care transition model to improve post-discharge care for older patients who have undergone colorectal cancer surgery.

Clinical Interventionists
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Arden O'Donnell, MPH, MSW, LICSW, APHSW-C

Social Work Interventionist

Arden O'Donnell, MPH, MSW, LICSW APHSW-C is a Palliative Social Worker and researcher getting her Ph.D. at Boston University.  Arden’s commitment to Palliative Care in International Public Health working with HIV/AIDS patients in Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Her professional career in Social Work as a Pediatric Palliative Care (PACT) Fellow at Children's Hospital then became a member of the Dana Farber-Brigham and Women's Palliative Care Service.  She ran a clinical trial "A Focused Palliative Care Intervention for Recently Hospitalized High-Risk Patients with Heart Failure " which assessed the impact of a standardized, social-worker-led, longitudinal palliative care intervention on the alignment of patient and physician understanding of prognosis and goals of care. Arden is involved in training interprofessional teams on Communication through the Serious Illness Conversation guide and is a Vital Talk-trained clinician. She is an adjunct professor at School for Social Work and Boston University. Arden is also personally dedicated to helping children who have experienced loss through founding the non-profit, Coalition for Courage and being a dedicated foster and adoptive parent.

 
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Natalia Giraldo-Santiago, PhD, MSW

Social Work Interventionist

Natalia is a bi-lingual and bi-cultural social worker and a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital working at CHOIR and the Center for Aging and Serious Illnesses (CASI). Natalia earned her MSW and PhD in Social Work at the University of Puerto Rico (2014) and the University of Houston (2022), respectively. Natalia's research career is driven by over five years of clinical experience in a variety of inpatient and outpatient mental health settings in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Phoenix, Arizona. 

 

Natalia's research seeks to conduct cultural and linguistic adaptations of mental health-focused Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs) and evaluate the quality and effectiveness with Latinx and Spanish-speaking populations. Her research seeks to address mental health disparities by improving the adoption of EBPs among social workers, and consequently, their delivery to racial/ethnic minorities and older populations in low-income and under-resourced community settings. 

 

Team Members

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James Breed, MPA

Division Administrative Director

James Breed is the Administrative Director for the Massachusetts General Hospital's Division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine. He is focused on supporting the delivery of accessible high-quality healthcare for patients and their caregivers.

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Michelle StPaul, MA

Research Administrative Manager

Michelle StPaul is the Research Administrative Manager at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. In this role she manages the operational and financial aspects of the center. She collaborates closely with Center leadership to support researchers and staff, manage finances, and coordinate strategic planning.

Ms. StPaul received her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. She has over a decade of experience within research administration, training, regulatory compliance, and project management.

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Naomi Gallopyn, MS

Program Manager, The Learning Network

Naomi Gallopyn is a Program Manager at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. In this role, she manages the National Home-based Primary Care Learning Network.

Ms. Gallopyn received her Master's degree in Gerontology from the University of Massachusetts – Boston and her Bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Rhode Island. She has worked on many research projects examining home and community-based services as well as the experiences of older adults and persons with significant disability at both MGH and in her educational career. She is passionate about improving the quality of care and accessibility of care to homebound older adults with serious illness and limited resources.

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Angela Miller, MA

Senior Data Analyst

Data Core Co-Director

Angela Miller is the Senior Data Analyst at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. In her role she provides programming, analytical, and statistical support for projects. She also co-leads the Center’s Data Core and provides mentoring and training to junior analysts.

 

Angela received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in Health Economics from Eastern Michigan University. Her previous work focused on evaluations of Population Health Management programs in both the provider and insurance settings.

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Maimouna Sy, BS

Clinical Research Coordinator II

Maimouna Sy is a Clinical Research Coordinator II at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. A graduate from the University of Connecticut, she received her Bachelor’s in Molecular and Cell Biology and minored in French on the pre-medical track. Maimouna joins the Center with past research experience in exploring cancer survivorship and improving survivors' quality of life through interventions involving mindfulness, spirituality, and coping and is eager to expand her knowledge on serious illnesses.

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Aniyah Travis, MPH

Clinical Research Coordinator

Aniyah Travis is a clinical research Coordinator at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. She recently graduated with a B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology from Northeastern University and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Health. A Chicago native, her exposure to the obvious need for community improvement has motivated her to seek opportunities that will introduce skills needed to impact change within her community. Aniyah’s past research focused on aging populations and early childhood development. She is excited to apply what she has learned in past experiences to this new role while also developing new skills in a clinical setting.

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Sarah Stone, BA

Clinical Research Coordinator

Sarah Stone is a clinical research coordinator at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. Sarah is a recent graduate from Brandeis University with a B.A. in Health: Science, Society, Policy, and English. Sarah is passionate about helping vulnerable and under-represented communities access healthcare services while providing opportunities to be a part of innovative and transformative research.

 
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Heily Chavez, BS

Clinical Research Coordinator 

Heily Chavez is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. She recently graduated from University of Massachusetts Boston, with a B.A. in Physics and minor in Biology, where her research focused on first-time parents, hormones, and behavior. She is interested in serving and helping underrepresented communities through research. Heily is excited to apply her experience to improving the quality of care for older adults and broaden her knowledge on serious illnesses. In her free time, she enjoys trying new baking recipes and reading

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Ayush Thacker, BS

Clinical Research Coordinator 

Ayush Thacker is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. He recently graduated from Brandeis University with a B.S. in Biology and Anthropology and a minor in Health: Science, Society, Policy. He has previously worked in the Serious Illness Care space at the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care and the Serious Illness Care Program at Ariadne Labs. His prior research involves navigating Serious Illness conversations and he hopes to go to medical school in the future.

Affiliated Faculty

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Linda L. Emanuel, MD, PhD

Psychoanalyst

Linda Emanuel, MD, PhD is a psychoanalyst with a general practice, working with adults and children. She has a special interest in people coping with serious illness and loss. She lives near Boston and works for the most part by videoconference with people wherever they are. Dr. Emanuel has a special interest in people coping with serious illness and loss that continues from her many years working as an academic internist in palliative medicine.

She is a member of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and a Professor Emerita of Medicine at Northwestern University’s Medical School. Dr. Emanuel was formerly Director of the Buehler Center on Aging.

CASI Alumni

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Jessica Ding, BA, MM

Clinical Research Coordinator (May 2021 - June 2022)

Jessica Ding was a clinical research coordinator at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. She graduated from the Harvard and New England Conservatory dual degree program, earning her B.A. in social anthropology and her M.M. in harp performance. Besides the harp, Jessica also plays the piano (and she recently started learning a portable instrument: the acoustic guitar!). Her past research in anthropology and public health spanned topics such as integrative medicine in China, the development of tech for eldercare, and chronic illness narratives. In Fall 2022, Jessica concluded her time at CASI to enter the MD/PhD program in medical anthropology at Michigan State University. She looks forward to spending more time outdoors and exploring a new state!

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