The Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee awarded the following New Investigator Program grants in 2015:

Advancing Tele-Ophthalmology for Diabetic Retinopathy in Rural Wisconsin Health Settings

Yao Liu, MD, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Award: $100,000 over two years

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-age Wisconsin adults. There are more than 135,000 people in Wisconsin with diabetes who are at risk. Early diagnosis and treatment decrease the risk of severe vision loss by 90%, but less than 50 percent of the 29.1 million Americans with diabetes receive yearly eye screening.

This project will expand the use of telecommunications for eye care delivery — known as “tele-ophthalmology” — to increase access to screening and improve eye screening rates in underserved, rural Wisconsin communities. The project will test interventions to overcome identified barriers to tele-ophthalmology. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce vision loss from diabetic retinopathy in communities that have limited access to eye screening.

Improved Glycemic Control through Reduction of Specific Dietary Amino Acids

Dudley Lamming, PhD, Medicine
Award: $100,000 over two years

More than 475,000 Wisconsin residents have diabetes, resulting in estimated health care costs of over $6 billion per year. An additional 1.4 million Wisconsinites over the age of 20 are estimated to have pre-diabetes, making this an urgent health care problem for Wisconsin.

Diabetes is an especially acute problem for minority groups, affecting over 40 percent of American Indian and 20 percent of African American adults in Wisconsin. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for the vast majority of these diabetes cases, is associated with diet and obesity, suggesting that dietary interventions might prove more effective and affordable than pharmaceutical options.

The goal of this new research is to better understand the impact of dietary quality – in this instance, the amino acid composition of the diet – on glycemic control metabolism and weight gain, and examine the potential efficacy of altered dietary amino acid intake as a sustainable intervention to improve blood sugar levels and minimize weight gain.

Improving Antibiotic Stewardship for Long Term Care Facility Residents Treated in the Emergency Department

Michael Pulia, Emergency Medicine
Award: $100,000 over two years

Inappropriate use of antibiotics in healthcare settings has been identified as a global public health threat due to an association with increasing rates of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections. In the emergency department (ED), antibiotics are the second most commonly prescribed type of medication and research continues to identify high rates of inappropriate prescribing in EDs. This puts the millions of long-term care facility (LCTF) residents who receive care in the ED each year at risk for inappropriate antibiotic treatment. These patients often seek emergency care due to serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and sepsis. They are at risk for suboptimal antibiotic use due to atypical presentations, lack of agreed upon definitions of infection, and inadequate data exchange during transitions of care. This population is also particularly vulnerable to complications from antibiotic use such as drug-drug interactions, medication side effects, and Clostridium difficile infection.

This project aims to create a systems engineering based conceptual model of antibiotic use by identifying key stakeholder perspectives on appropriate care of LTCF residents treated in the ED. The findings will inform a refined antibiotic stewardship ED intervention that improves prescribing, enhances vital information sharing during transfer of care, and facilitates post-discharge antibiotic modifications. The developed intervention toolkit will be disseminated for adaption by other EDs with the goal of improving antibiotic use for these patients throughout the state and nation.

Novel Targeted Therapies for the Treatment of Subtypes of Colorectal Cancer

Dustin Deming, Medicine (Hematology/Oncology)
Award: $99,999 over two years

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in Wisconsin, only behind lung cancer. Despite improved screening rates, many patients, especially those diagnosed at a young age or from an underserved population, present with advanced disease. In order to advance treatment options of patients with CRC, a fundamental change to a more personalized treatment approach is urgently needed.

Researchers will use innovative methods to investigate combinations of directed therapies to target subtypes of CRC. These novel combinations will likely be more effective and better tolerated than standard cytotoxic chemotherapy regimens and may hold promise for applicability across other cancer types.