Kathleen Unroe, MD, MHA

Kathleen Unroe , MD, MHA is the OPTIMISTIC Project Director. She is a geriatrician and nursing home physician. Dr. Unroe is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Indiana University and an Investigator with the IU Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute.

Her research focus is quality of care in nursing homes, as well as the use of palliative care and hospice in long term care settings. She was a 2009-2010 Atlantic Philanthropies Health and Aging Policy Fellow and through that program had a placement in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation in Health and Human Services in the Division of Disability, Aging and Long term care. Her research has included linking the Nursing Home Compare rating system to readmissions and examining national trends on care for heart failure patients at the end of life. She conducted a survey of nursing home staff regarding hospice and palliative care in 50 nursing homes in Indiana and has done work examining trends in hospice use in nursing homes. Dr. Unroe has been recognized for her work by awards at national meetings in her field. She is Chair of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Research Committee and Vice Chair of the American Geriatrics Society Public Policy Committee.  She is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  Dr. Unroe completed a three year Geriatric Medicine fellowship and internal medicine residency at Duke University. She received her MD, with a Specialization in Aging, and Masters in Health Administration from The Ohio State University.


Greg Sachs, MD

Greg Sachs, MD was one of the OPTIMISTIC Project Directors for Phase One and is a co-investigator in Phase 2. He is the Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine. He also serves as an Investigator in the IU Center for Aging Research and Regenstrief Institute.

His research focuses on the ethical issues in geriatrics, especially relating to palliative care for people with dementia and their families.  Dr. Sachs has served on the Board of Directors for The American Geriatric Society and on the editorial board of JAGS. He has received the Outstanding Scientific Achievement for Clinical Investigation from the American Geriatrics Society and was named a “Top Doctor” in Geriatrics in Chicago, Indianapolis, and in national ratings. He was the founding Chief of the Section of Geriatrics and founding Co-Director of the center for Comprehensive Care and Research on Memory Disorders at the University of Chicago. Dr. Sachs graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and completed his Internal Medicine residency and fellowships in geriatrics and medical ethics at the University of Chicago.


Nicole Fowler, PhD

Nicole Fowler, PhD is the Data and Analytics Team Lead for the OPTIMISTIC project.   She is a Scientist with the Regenstrief Institute, the Center for Aging Research and the Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science. Dr. Fowler is a health services researcher and implementation scientist.  Her primary research focus is improving the quality of medical decision making for older adults with cognitive impairment and their families by making the decision- making process more patient-centered and evidence-based. She is committed to advancing research that will have immediate relevance to patients and families, as well as help clinicians better integrate and apply evidence-based care, and help policymakers identify better ways to measure and promote quality care for older adults with cognitive impairment.  Prior to her PhD, Dr. Fowler worked as a nursing facility administrator.


Susan Hickman, PhD

Susan Hickman , PhD is the Palliative Care Lead for the OPTIMISTIC project. She is a Professor in the Indiana University School of Nursing and a Senior Affiliate Faculty Member in the IU Health Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics. She is a Co-Director of the RESPECT (Research in Palliative and End-of-Life Communication and Training) Center, an IUPUI Signature Center, and a Co-Chair of the Indiana Patient Preferences Coalition.

Dr. Hickman received her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and doctorate in psychology from the University of Kansas. She is dedicated to improving the care of older patients near the end of life, primarily through research on decision-making. A major focus of her work is on the POLST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment), a widely used tool that documents treatment preferences in the form of medical orders. She has studied use of the POLST Program in nursing facilities, the community, and hospices since 2000. 


Jennifer Carnahan, MD, MPH, MA

Jennifer Carnahan , MD, MPH, MA is the Medical and Transitions Core Lead for the OPTIMISTIC project. She is a board certified geriatrician who received her MD and MPH from the University of Virginia. She completed a combined four-year Geriatric Medicine Fellowship and an internal Medicine Residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she served as Chief Resident in Quality and Patient Safety. After completing an advanced geriatrics research fellowship at the Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Dr. Carnahan joined the faculty at the Indiana University School of Medicine and is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine. 


Monica Ott, MD

Monica Ott is the Medical Director for the OPTIMISTIC project. She is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Ott is an attending physician and certified medical director at a CCRC in Indianapolis.  She is a past IMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine president.  Her areas of interest include palliative care and management of behavioral symptoms associated with dementia.  She continues to lead the project’s education regarding dementia.


Ellen Miller, PhD

Ellen Miller, PhD is the Education Lead for the OPTIMISTIC Project. She is the Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Programs and the Executive Director of the Center for Aging & Community at the University of Indianapolis. She also holds the university's DeHaan Endowed Chair in Gerontology and is faculty in the Krannert School of Physical Therapy. 

Dr. Miller works to advance the Center’s role as educator, consultant, convener, and collaborator on issues important to older adults, including improved quality in long-term care facilities. Under Miller's direction, the Center has worked with entities across the state of Indiana to form regional collaborations designed to increase the level of knowledge of long-term care professionals and improve the quality of life for residents living in nursing facilities. Miller has also led the Center to a prominent role in gerontology education and training, and has established partnerships with local, state, and national aging network organizations.


Kathy Frank, RN, PhD

Kathy Frank, RN, PhD is the Clinical Supervisor for the OPTIMISTIC project. She is currently the IU Geriatrics Program Administrator and has been instrumental in the development of the Indiana Geriatrics Society, currently is the past President.

She has been involved at the national level with the American Geriatrics Society on the board as the Co-Chair of the COSAR Representatives for AGS. She has served on the AGS Program Planning Committee and is currently on the AGS Nominating Committee. She is on the Indiana State Board of the Health Facility Administrators and on the Board of Directors for CICOA. She was the 2010 recipient of the Mary and Tony Hulman award for geriatrics by the Indiana Public Health Foundation. She received her PhD in Nursing from Indiana University.



Justin Blackburn, PhD

Justin Blackburn, PhD is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management in the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health. Dr. Blackburn is a health services researcher, with a primary research interest in improving health outcomes and quality of care, particularly among vulnerable populations. He is an applied methodologist, with experience working with large administrative data sets from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, including billing claims and patient/resident assessments. Dr. Blackburn received his PhD in epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and MPH in epidemiology from the University of Kentucky.  





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