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Dr. Shen Receives NIH-funded R37 Award for a Study on Advance Care Planning at End-of-Life

Dr. Megan Johnson Shen

Dr. Megan Johnson Shen, Assistant Professor of Psychology in Medicine, Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, has received an R37 award from the National Institutes of Health in support of her research on advance care planning (ACP) and end-of-life (EoL) care.

There is a prevalent patient-reported need to incorporate social networking into the advance care planning process for older adults. Dr. Shen’s project will take a new approach to this need in a study that aims to develop and test a mobile health (mHealth) application known as PACT (Planning Advance Care Together). PACT is grounded in decision-making research that indicates individuals often make decisions with the input of social “informants” or influences. PACT utilizes mHealth technology to provide empirically-based features to meet patients’ reported need to incorporate loved ones into the advance care planning decision-making process, which bolsters their social networks with the intended goal of receiving the support they need and ultimately improving their engagement in ACP and receipt of value-consistent EoL care.

“It is known that the provision of EoL care enables a greater likelihood of a patient’s wishes being followed at the end-of-life and that advance care planning plays a key role in this process. However, less than half of all cancer patients engage in ACP,” explains Dr. Shen. In particular, patients with low health literacy are at greatest risk for not engaging in and/or completing advance care directions. Dr. Shen’s study is addressing this limitation by refining and pilot testing this application, which will educate patients by using four easy-to-understand educational animated videos on ACP, provide a supportive decision-making tool to assist in the completion of advance directives and health care proxy forms, and provide additional social support and communication tools and resources for engaging in ACP with loved ones and providers.

The WDOM congratulates Dr. Shen on receiving this NIH-funded R37 award, which will provide nearly $450,000 per year for a period of five years and is renewable for an additional two years.

Dr. Shen was also a recipient of the highly competitive Kellen Junior Faculty Fellowship Award through a generous gift from the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation. The Kellen Junior Faculty Fellowship Program at Weill Cornell Medicine provides support to outstanding newly appointed junior female faculty at the instructor or assistant professor levels. Kellen Fellowships are intended to provide support to junior female faculty, thereby allowing them to establish a scientific track record leading to success in research and promotion to a higher rank.