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Pilot Research Awardees

The Pilot Research Awards program is one of the most important mechanisms by which the JHAD-RCMAR achieves its goal of training.

The Pilot Research Awards program trains and supports early-stage investigators from under-represented backgrounds who are carrying out Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD)-relevant research that supports cognitive health and well being in minority older adults. The program also supports more established investigators who are seeking to shift their focus onto ADRD and minority aging.

JHAD-RCMAR funds are available to encourage innovative research focused on basic, clinical, psychosocial, or health services aspects of minority aging, Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders (ADRD), and health disparities. Those awarded pilot research funds through this mechanism will become JHAD-RCMAR Scientists and will receive additional career development support through the JHAD-RCMAR.

To illustrate the success of this program, below are the pilot awards received by RCMAR Scientists.

  • Halima Amjad, MD (PI) – “Dementia Diagnosis in Minority Populations.”  This pilot study aims to expand knowledge about why dementia diagnosis is often delayed in minority populations.
  • Travonia Brown-Hughes, PhD (PI) – “The African American Interdenominational Memory and Aging Project (AA-IMAP)” examines perceptions of AD (e.g., risk and protective factors for AD) among a cohort of mid-life and older college-educated African American/Black men and women, whether these perceptions vary by demographic status, and the relationship of different levels of knowledge about AD to cognitive status.

  • Vanya Jones, PhD (PI) – Driving Retirement Planning: Understanding the Needs of Diverse Older Drivers with Cognitive Impairment and Dementia.”   This pilot study aims to understand the needs of diverse older drivers with cognitive impairment and dementia, and their opinions about driving cessation.

  • Alicia Arbaje MD, MPH, PhD (PI)- “Medication Management During Hospital-to-Home Transitions of Latin American Older Adults with Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias”. The goal of this proposal is to identify challenges of medication management during hospital-to-home transitions among Latin American older adults with ADRD.

  • Jin Hui Joo, MD (PI)- “Improving Community-Based Dementia Care for Asian Older Adults within an Implementation Framework”. The goal of this study is to assess the dementia care needs, how needs are currently met, and the facilitators and barriers to obtaining dementia care from the perspective of Asian American older adults, their caregivers and community organizations that serve this population.

  • Amal Wanigatunga, PhD, MPH (PI)- “Free-living Physical Activity Patterns and Alzheimer’s Disease in African Americans”. The primary goal of this study is to evaluate differences in the amount and manner in which physical activity is conducted throughout the day in older African American adults, with and without MCI or mild AD dementia. A secondary goal is to compare data from a research-grade device that evaluates physical activity (the actigraph), with a more widely available smartwatch (the Apple watch).

  • Carrie Nieman MD, MPH (PI)- "Addressing Disparities among Minority Older Adults with Dementia through Affordable, Accessible, Home-Based Hearing Care". The goal of the project is to address the large unmet hearing care needs of persons living with dementia, particularly among older Black adults. The project aims to develop and pilot a hearing care intervention delivered at home by a speech-language pathologist (SLP), which is a potentially reimbursable and scalable approach to extending access to hearing care.  

  • Chanee Fabius, PhD (PI)- "Surveying Direct Care Agencies in Maryland to Examine Quality of Life of Older Medicaid Home and Community-Based Service Recipients with Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD)." This research informs aging and disability policies to reduce health care disparities and improve health equity for older adults and people with disabilities using long-term services and supports (LTSS). 

  • Manka Nkimbeng, PhD, MPH, RN (PI)- “The African Immigrant Dementia Education Project”. This education project will build on the foundation that is being laid by the AIMLP to develop a culturally tailored dementia education program with and for African immigrants in Minnesota and Maryland. 

  • Marino Bruce PhD, MSRC, MDiv (PI)- "Place, Faith and Cognitive Status among Middle and Old Age Black Men." The goal of this study is to 1) Determine urban-rural differences in the independent and interdependent associations of religiosity and spirituality on biological and behavioral responses to stress and cognitive status; and 2) Estimate structural equation models to examine the impact of place on the association of religiosity and spirituality with biological markers to elucidate how geography influence potential basic mechanisms through which they mediate the relationship between stress and cognitive status.

  • Roger Wong PhD, MPH, MSW (PI)- "Mediating and Moderating Effects of Modifiable Lifestyle Behaviors on Dementia Risk Among White and Hispanic Older Adults." The goal of this project is to 1) To determine how modifiable lifestyle behaviors (physical activity, smoking, social contacts) mediate the relationship between race/ethnicity and dementia risk among White and Hispanic older adults, and 2) To determine how race/ethnicity moderates the relationship between modifiable lifestyle behaviors (physical activity, smoking, social contacts) and dementia risk among White and Hispanic older adults.

  • Harry Taylor PhD, MSW, MPH (PI)- “Longitudinal Trajectories of Social Isolation and Loneliness among Black Older Adults".  The goal of this project is to 1) To determine longitudinal trends of social isolation and loneliness among Black older adults, and 2) To determine which sociodemographic factors influence longitudinal trends of social isolation and loneliness among Black older adults.

  • Julie Boron, PhD (PI)- “Caregivers of People with Memory Loss: Relationships between the Built Environment and Sleep Quality in South Asian Refugees” The goal of this study is 1) to identify the ADRD and caregiving knowledge and services needed and preferred by an SA-IRM community, and 2) to help inform future developments aimed at reducing health disparities and improving individual and community environments.

  • A’mie Preston, PsyD (PI)-Virtual Reality Application and Perception: Are there Differences by Race?” The goal of this project is i) to study the perception associated with use of iVR among cognitively impaired older Veterans from racially underrepresented populations. ii) To examine the overall experience of iVR use in this same population. iii) To explore the need of future iVR applications.

  • Rachel Wu, PhD (PI)- “Identifying Ways to Encourage Skill Learning in Low-Income Minority Older Adults” The aims of this project 1) investigate the impact of psychological barriers (e.g., motivation, subjective age) and resource barriers (e.g., learning tool, finances) on engagement in skill learning with low-income minority older adults’, 2) evaluate the impact of psychological and resource barriers to skill learning on older adults’ cognitive abilities (objective and subjective) and well-being.