The Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee awarded the following New Investigator Program grants in 2016:

Investigating Retention in Care to Address Healthcare Disparities in Lupus: A Wisconsin Lupus Cohort

Christie Bartels, MD, Medicine (Rheumatology)
Award: $100,000 over two years

Lupus is one of the most common autoimmune connective tissue diseases and it disproportionately affects minority patients and women — three black patients are diagnosed for every white patient, and nine women are diagnosed for every man. Wisconsin is the only state with a growing mortality gap for black women. Poor lupus outcomes, especially in black women with less severe initial disease, suggest that a difference in follow-up of disease in black patients might be to blame. Although clinical care can reduce many risks, little is known regarding what predicts who stays in care or how to improve lupus care delivery and health outcomes.

This project aims to confirm diagnoses in an urban group of lupus patients at Medical College of Wisconsin, and using electronic record data, study who does and does not stay in rheumatology care. The impact of race and other predictors of keeping patients in care will be examined during the study. Successful completion of this project will position the team for further research funding and work to improve retention in care. Expected outcomes include an innovative approach to measure lupus care, and baseline data for future trials to improve health among the estimated 28,000 Wisconsinites with lupus.

Community-Based Continence Promotion: Mind Over Matter; Healthy Bowels, Healthy Bladder

Heidi Brown, MD, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Award: $100,000 over two years

Bladder and/or bowel incontinence affects more than 60 percent of older women and increases their risk of depression, falls, hospitalization and nursing home placement. Symptoms can be improved or even cured without medications or surgery, but most women with incontinence do not seek care so they do not know about these self-management strategies. Mind Over Matter; Healthy Bowels, Healthy Bladder (MOM) is a community-based workshop for older Wisconsin women that builds skills and self-efficacy to control incontinence symptoms through exercises and lifestyle changes, and provides tools to talk to a doctor if these changes don’t cure symptoms.

This project aims to test MOM’s effectiveness using a rigorous randomized, controlled trial (RCT) study design and to develop an implementation toolkit that will allow busy senior centers to more easily consider and incorporate MOM into their programming. Upon the project’s completion, MOM will be ready for widespread dissemination in Wisconsin in partnership with the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging (WIHA) with the objective of improving continence and promoting healthy aging in place for more than 200,000 older Wisconsin women living with bladder or bowel incontinence.

Reprogramming β-cell Metabolism to Prevent and Rescue Type 2 Diabetes

Matthew Merrins, PhD, Medicine and Biomolecular Chemistry
Award: $100,000 over three years

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Wisconsin is rapidly climbing, imposing a significant burden on the health care system. The clinical manifestation of diabetes is attributed to the failure of insulin secretion from pancreatic β (beta) cells. This project proposes that activating a metabolic enzyme, pyruvate kinase, has the potential to prevent diabetes and rescue insulin secretion from the diabetic β-cell. The studies are needed to provide a firm scientific basis for a clinical intervention that preserves β-cell metabolic health in people.