The Leonard Schanfield Research Institute: An Overview

One of the unique benefits at CJE is our in-house research division, the Leonard Schanfield Research Institute (LSRI), whose mission is to improve the quality of life for older adults and their caregivers through person-centered research, outcomes measurement, and evaluation. This work contributes to the development, innovation, and dissemination of equitable models of service and support for all older adults and their caregivers.

The primary benefit of an in-house research institute is that it allows CJE to embed research into care practices and use care practices to generate more meaningful research questions. Research shows there is, on average, a 17-year delay for best practices supported by research evidence to be incorporated into routine general healthcare approaches. By having an in-house research division, CJE can more immediately implement evidence-based, research-supported strategies into our care practices. Further, researchers can consult directly with residents, clients, caregivers, and staff to incorporate their perspectives into research questions and design research, so that results are most meaningful to them.

The investigators in the LSRI are known for their expertise in assessment, planning, and evaluation in community-based and institutional realms of care, with competency in interdisciplinary, multi-method research models. Dr. Margaret Danilovich, a nationally recognized expert in the area of frailty and exercise, directs the LSRI.

The LSRI houses four major areas of work as shown in this figure.

Dr. Margaret Danilovich leads work in the area of exercise and health promotion. She has a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) studying a novel walking intervention for older adults with pre-frailty and frailty residing in ten retirement communities in the Chicagoland area. Another project funded by the Retirement Research Foundation studies a walking intervention for older adults in assisted living (including our own Weinberg Community) to investigate the impact on frailty, physical function, and cognition.

Dr. Rachel Lessem, an attorney and Research Scientist in the LSRI, leads efforts in the area of patient engagement. She has worked on the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)-funded Sages in Every Setting project. A core part of patient engagement at CJE is the Bureau of Sages, CJE’s own Research Advisory Board with members who are residents of the Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation. Bureau members share experiences, build knowledge, and develop skills for working together to provide voice to the direction, design, and implementation of research on aging.


Program Evaluation efforts are guided by Dr. Rebecca Berman, an anthropologist and noted expert in the area of evaluation and Research Scientist at the LSRI. In collaboration with Dr. Lessem, CJE research experts in program evaluation are often consulted as external evaluators for other researchers. Dr. Berman is skilled at using participatory approaches to engage multiple stakeholders in evaluation and has extensive experience with training non-researchers in evaluation methods. Recent work in program evaluation has been in evaluating the Patient Centered Outcomes Research for Employees (PCORE) project at Marquette University and Sages in Every Setting project, work conducted by the Orot Center for New Jewish Learning, as well as internal evaluations for CJE initiatives supported by JUF and the Delighter Foundation.

Physical Therapy

In the area of quality improvement and implementation science, Christie Norrick and Nikki Briggs, both social workers, lead efforts around the agency to improve data measurement and outcomes. This work has been supported through grants by the Michael Reese Health Trust, Delighter Foundation, Braun Foundation, and Fogelson Foundation. In the area of implementation, Dr. Danilovich has recently been funded by the National Institutes on Aging’s Impact Collaboratory. Her study will investigate the implementation of a volunteer-led behavioral intervention for older adults with Alzheimer’s Disease or other related dementias at the University of Chicago and Rush emergency departments.

Research Snapshot: How a Study Can be applied in Real Life

Dr. Danilovich recently published the article, “Improving the Relationship of Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Home Care Aides and Clients Through Health Interviewing” in the Journal of Applied Gerontology. Of note, a co-author on this paper was Dr. Amy Eisenstein, the former director of the LSRI.

The purpose of this study was to investigate health interviewing between formal (non-family) caregivers and their care recipients. Formal caregivers were trained to interview their care recipient to learn about their preferences for care. Results showed that formal caregivers could indeed be trained to conduct interviews, and doing so: 1) helped care recipients feel better heard and 2) helped caregivers better understand their care recipient’s needs.

Dr. Danilovich advises how to take the study results and put them into practice:

  • When hiring a formal caregiver, encourage the caregiver to ask your loved one their preferences for care.
  • You can also help a caregiver get to know your loved one by discussing specific questions together. Have the caregiver ask your loved one questions like:
    1. Could you walk me through your ideal day?
      • What time would you like to get up?
      • What would you like to eat?
      • What activities would you like to do?
    2. What are the best ways I can help you?
    3. What are the things you care most about?

Physical Therapy

Thanks to her evidence-based research, Dr. Danilovich was able to determine the many benefits of training caregivers to ask their care recipients about their care preferences. The suggestions above are a result of the important research happening at CJE’s Leonard Schanfield Research Institute, and we are pleased to pass on this information to you, our readers—so you can put research into action!