From research to impact

With the turn of a new year and a new decade, RCHE will also turn its attention toward a key area in healthcare engineering research — applying research findings to drive change within the healthcare system. 

“RCHE researchers provide a different perspective by applying perspectives from academic disciplines to issues that may have traditionally been held in the healthcare arena. The next step is to take results from this interaction and explore how they can be fed back into the system and used to make positive changes,” says Steve Witz, RCHE director.

Last year’s stimulus package made billions of dollars in grant funding available to improve the healthcare system; many of these RFPs include a requirement for demonstrating change or impact through the project results. But impact is becoming more important in all grant proposals, says Perry Kirkham, project coordinator with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

“The increasing need to justify the use of tax dollars for research requires that the public knows what they are buying. Basic research is always vital to move any topic forward, but sometimes we don’t have that luxury as the money available is too small for the number of researchers and the type of research that is essential to be done. Basic research must be paired with real-world settings in today’s economic climate,” he says.

To assist researchers in navigating some of the challenges encountered in demonstrating the impact of healthcare research, RCHE will focus its spring conference on research implementation, including success stories and suggestions for navigating challenges. More information about this and other RCHE events is available through the RCHE Web site at

  • RCHE Spring Conference: Closing the Gap — Researchers and clinicians who have partnered on projects that have demonstrated successful implementation will discuss the project, the process, and overcoming challenges. The conference will conclude with opportunities to talk with speakers in smaller groups.
    April 6, 8:30–3:00, Burton D. Morgan Center.

In spite of the challenges, Purdue researchers have an important perspective to offer — that of someone who is examining a field different from their own. “It is vital to get non-specialists to think about any topic in need of improvement:  the easy answers in almost all fields have been answered long ago.  It is necessary to ruminate on non-intuitive approaches,” says Kirkham.

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Anniversary celebration

Karen Studebaker, RCHE receptionist, was honored for 15 years of service to Purdue in the fall 2009. She worked in the Department of Biological Sciences before coming to RCHE.

RCHE congratulates Karen and thanks her for her continued hard work and welcoming disposition.

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Student ambassador recognized for contributions to Purdue and the community

In any day, Cody Mullen wears many hats. He’s a junior at Purdue, double-majoring in chemistry and chemical engineering. He works with RCHE as both a student ambassador and student researcher through the Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship (DURI) program. And in his spare time, he serves as an assistant cub master for Cub Scout Pack 3338, district committee member, and district trainer.

“The scouts teach me new ways of looking at things and remind me of the excitement I had when I was learning about first aid or learning how to shoot a bow and arrow for the first time,” says the West Lafayette native.

Cody has also been active with Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette since the 10th grade. He started out volunteering with Civic as a soundboard operator and learning what it takes to design the sound for a production and has to date designed the sound for over 20 Civic productions.

Cody was nominated for the Community Activity Recognition Award and was selected as one of the five recipients out of a pool of more than 50 nominees, all of whom were extremely qualified, says program chair Susan Hychka. He received a recognition plaque during halftime at the February 4 women’s basketball game.

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Breakfast recognizes excellent graduate student research and student ambassador contributions

RCHE’s graduate student scholars program honors a handful of graduate students each year who demonstrate excellence in scholarship and commitment to research. The following students were selected based on faculty nominations:

Hannah Kim is currently a doctoral student in the Educational Technology program in the College of Education. She is a research assistant for the Health Informatics and Learning Technologies group at RCHE. She has been working on the design of a learning environment for chronic care patients and providers and recently developed a usability testing protocol to formatively assess a web-based prototype to support patient self-management in partnership with HealthCall, LLC. Hannah was also the lead author of a recent journal article: “Learning Design Strategies for Building an Online Patient Self-Care System” in the Journal of Interactive Instruction Development. Nominated by Scott Schaffer, education.

Andy King is a PhD student in the communication as well as an NIH Cancer Prevention Fellow for 2009–2010. His research focuses on the development and evaluation of message strategies designed to improve cancer outcomes. He is working on the colon cancer screening (CCS) worksite campaign. He has helped to develop message materials, put together the IRB, and design and manage the entire formative component. Andy also helped to survey and interview over 200 low-income Indiana adults for a health literacy study (Spring 2008–Spring 2009). Nominated by Jake Jensen, communications.

Inkyoung Hur is a graduate student focusing on human factors in the School of Industrial Engineering at Purdue University. She joined the Healthcare and Information Visualization Engineering (HIVE) Lab when it newly was founded in spring 2009. She demonstrated a strong leadership in the Food for the Heart project, which was funded by the RCHE Seed Grant program in the season of 2009–2010. The primary aim of the Food for the Heart project (formerly known Food Magnet) is developing and evaluating a web-based dietary control tool for patients who have cardiovascular diseases. She was originally assigned to conduct literature review in relevant research areas (e.g., web-based dietary interventions and human-computer interaction), but she expanded her role to a wider range of tasks, such as designing the prototypes and focus groups studies. Nominated by Ji Soo Yi, industrial engineering.

Joanne Daggy, a graduate student in statistics, is recognized for her manages complex databases, including very large scheduling and billing databases from the Indiana University Medical Group and the Veterans Administration hospital in Indiana. She sets herself apart in her systematic approach to working with complex data, investigating the data thoroughly and independently and researching any potential inconsistencies. Dr. Sands cites her ability to jump into areas of investigation that are new to her and make important substantive and methodological contributions; integrating information provided by other investigators with her knowledge of advanced multivariate statistics to develop an analytic approach that targets the investigators’ research questions; learning and applying new statistical techniques that she feels would best address the research question at hand. Nominated by Laura Sands, nursing.

LaShara Davis is a PhD student in the communication as well as a Purdue Doctoral Fellow. Her interests include how nutritional recommendations might better be formatted for low skilled groups. She has worked on two large-scale, federally funded projects (awarded through RCHE and CLA) to promote organ donation to minority populations. As part of those projects, she has done training of staff and volunteers working for non-profit organizations and has conducted campaign outreach in the field. She helped to survey and interview 131 low income individuals in seven Indiana counties. This work involved conducting research in a number of hard to reach places, including low income neighborhoods in Gary, rehab centers in Kokomo, women’s/transitional shelters in Muncie, and food pantries in Elwood. She continued this work by developing Spanish-language materials for a study of low-income Indiana adults who spoke Spanish as their first and only language. Nominated by Susan Morgan, communications.

Pamela Morris is a PhD student in communication. Pamela’s research interests are in the areas of information technology and organizational communication. She has been a key part of the development of the Center for Assistive Technology (CAT) at RCHE. With funding from Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration, CAT supports promoting communication and collaboration between assistive technology users, innovators, professionals and researchers. Her work has focused on conducting several key needs assessments to inform successful implementation of catHUB, a web portal and one of the key components of the center. Nominated by Bart Collins, communications.

Xiaoqin Yang has worked as a research assistant on a project evaluating associations between medication use and functioning in patients with dementia and has also been involved in work examining the pharmacoepidemiology of medication use in older adults. She is recognized by her professors for her inquisitiveness and desire to develop detailed understanding of issues that are hallmarks of scholarship.
As a research assistant, she has been responsible for dealing with large and complex datasets. Her work in managing and analyzing the data has been first-rate. Nominated by Joseph Thomas, pharmacy practice.

Balmatee Bidassie is a doctoral candidate in industrial engineering conducting interdisciplinary research in ergonomics and lifestyle risk factors in the prevention of back injuries. She is being recognized for advancing ergonomics and wellness research among Purdue faculty and staff for the past two and a half years. Nominated by Jim McGlothlin, health sciences.

Casey Coker has been instrumental in Dr. Shields’ study of physician-patient communication with cancer patients. She is now directing an RCHE-funded pilot study of physician-patient communication with couples managing diabetes. Her research interests are to understand this process so that the care provided to patients and families can be improved. Nominated by Cleveland Shields, child development and family studies.

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Another successful year for the Children’s Hospital Toy Drive

RCHE’s annual holiday toy drive for the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital raised over $1,000 in toys, art supplies, and character bedding. This year’s drive was held in partnership with the Women in Engineering (WiE) program. WiE students, RCHE ambassadors, and RCHE staff delivered the toys shortly before the holidays.

Special thanks to all of the students who participated in donating, collecting, and delivering the toys.

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RCHE research symposium highlights a “best-kept secret” at Purdue for inaugural Healthy Planet Week

From 2006 to 2009, more than 9,000 Purdue faculty, staff, and spouses participated in the Healthy Purdue program. Health screening and survey results from the program, including information from the university’s health claims, are now housed on a secure server and available for use in research projects. Data types include eligibility, medical, prescription drug, short-term disability, long-term disability, workers’ compensation, health risk appraisal, coaching participation, and apple completion.

Several faculty members who have worked with the data presented their results at a research symposium on February 3. Assistant professor Melissa Franks said she was very pleased to be able to work with a dataset that included more than 1,800 couples for her work on health patterns in dyads.

Purdue faculty can apply for access to the data. Graduate students should apply through their faculty advisor. The data is not downloadable and no index currently exists, so researchers must propose a specific project before viewing the data. Mindy Paulet, administrative director of WorkLife Programs and administrator of the data, suggests that researchers meet with her before submitting an application.

Healthy Purdue Data
For more information about the Healthy Purdue data or the application process, please contact:

Mindy Paulet
Administrative Director, WorkLife Programs


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Taking care: Study links health literacy and self-care in heart failure patients

Heart failure patients with higher health literacy are more likely to engage in self-care behaviors, according to a study by Kim Plake, an associate professor of pharmacy practice, and Karen Yehle, an assistant professor of nursing.

An estimated 5.8 million Americans suffer from heart failure. Managing this chronic illness requires that patients monitor certain health indicators, such as weight, for changes and take medications regularly. Health literacy, defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions,” plays a critical factor in this. Poor health literacy can affect a patient’s ability to adhere to their treatment regimen and manage their condition, leading to poorer health outcomes.

This study focuses on health literacy and self-care in heart failure patients across multiple care settings.


Participants were recruited from two Indiana hospital heart failure clinics. Pearson correlations were performed between the S-TOFHLA score and the SCHFI subscale scores, and one-way ANOVA was performed between demographic variables that contained at least three groups and the SCHFI subscale score.


Higher health literacy was positively correlated with both self-care and self-management. Age, education, and amount of exercise in the past week, were all positively correlated with health literacy. Race, gender, income, and maritial status were among the demographic variables that did not affect health literacy.

Future Work

The study provides preliminary data for future work aimed at improving patient self-care through tailored health literacy-specific education. A second phase assessing the impact of existing patient education methods in self-care based on health literacy is underway with funding from the Kinley Foundation.

Excerpted from Plake, K. S. and Karen Yehle. Health Literacy, Medication Burden and Self Care Behaviors in Patients with Heart Failure Across Multiple Care Settings. Project Proposal and Final Report.

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Coffee & Collaboration Meetings adopt new format beginning in 2010

Coffee & Collaborations
First Monday of each month
8:00–9:00 a.m., Mann Hall, Room 203
Once known as Ops meetings, the Monday morning meeting will be held the first Monday of each month, beginning February 1, from 8:00–10:00 a.m. in room 203 Mann Hall. Meetings remain open and RCHE faculty are particularly encouraged to attend.
RCHE project updates, funding opportunities, and strategic direction will continue to be agenda items, along with faculty updates. These meetings are an excellent opportunity to network with other faculty who have similar interests.

CAT Poster Retreat
March 26, 2010
Mann Hall
Entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, and assistive technology users are all invited to the 2010 Center for Assistive Technology poster retreat.

RCHE Spring Conference: Closing the Loop
April 6, 2010
8:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., Burton D. Morgan Center, Discovery Park

More information available at

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From research to impact


Anniversary celebration

Student ambassador recognized for contributions to Purdue and the community

Breakfast recognizes excellent graduate student research and student ambassador contributions


Another successful year for the Children’s Hospital Toy Drive


RCHE research symposium highlights a “best-kept secret” at Purdue for inaugural Healthy Planet Week

Taking care: Study links health literacy and self-care in heart failure patients


Coffee & Collaboration Meetings adopt new format beginning in 2010




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