Where Research Reigns

by Mary Keen

For Dr. Amy Eisenstein, her appointment in 2015 as Director of CJE’s Leonard Schanfield Research Institute (LSRI) was especially meaningful. Over 15 years ago, when LSRI was still nascent, Eisenstein launched her career as a Research Assistant at CJE. Today, CJE is one of the few social service agencies in the country that continues to embrace its own in-house applied research department.

Perhaps it is that early experience at CJE which helped to shape Eisenstein’s longstanding research interests that are primarily related to aging issues, health and disease, with a focus on measuring outcomes associated with long term care and community-based living. Her experience and training have also focused on the use of mixed methodologies, including surveys, secondary data analysis, interviews, focus groups and content analysis.

As the new director of LSRI, Eisenstein first focused her attention on getting a pulse on CJE’s research priorities. In interviews with managers and staff, some common themes surfaced, including: brain health, Parkinson’s disease, population health management and management of multiple chronic conditions. She was excited to learn that staff was forward-thinking about the information and directives that an internal research department can provide to better understand the expectations, outcomes and impact of current and proposed programs.

With this information in hand, Eisenstein re- examined the focus of the LSRI and made some changes. The first was to refresh and gain leadership support for a more relevant mission statement: “To conduct applied research and evaluation to improve the quality of life of older adults and their caregivers and to contribute to the development, innovation and dissemination of equitable models of healthcare.” She then refined LSRI’s focus to a three-pronged approach:

  • Population Health Management— The use of data, analytics, and interventions to maintain and improve people’s health across the full continuum of care – from low-risk, healthy individuals to high-risk individuals with one or more chronic conditions.
  • Assessment, Planning and Evaluation— Understanding the impacts and the outcomes of the work that’s going on in CJE’s programs and the overarching work that CJE is conducting.
  • Use of Mixed Methodologies and Accurate Measurement of Outcomes— Employing both qualitative and quantitative methods and measuring patient-reported outcomes such as quality of life.

In order to put this plan into action, Eisenstein has assembled an impressive group of research professionals:

Micki Iris, Ph.D., Senior Co-Investigator
Rebecca Berman, Ph.D., Senior Co-Investigator
Carrie Robinson, R.N., M.A., Project Manager
Nissa Romanowski, M.P.H., Research Assistant
Beth Woidan Makowski, B.S., Research Assistant
Alex Vinokur, B.S., Research Assistant
Patty Voloschin-Weiner, L.C.P.C., Volunteer

According to Eisenstein, “My goal for research in general and in long-term care is to bring meaning and hope to the lives of residents and their families.” She also believes it is important that, as an organization, “we should explore and invest in cutting-edge opportunities, a goal which is in alignment with CJE’s value of innovation.”

Having a research staff embedded in the organization, working on an abundance of on-going and emerging projects, means that CJE will be assured of having well-constructed, outcomes-driven programs. In today’s healthcare climate that demands greater accountability and scrutiny, Dr. Eisenstein and her team are the foundation for CJE’s vision to be a model for health and human services providers throughout the country.

Amy Eisenstein received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. She is also Adjunct Assistant Professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Medical Social Sciences. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two children.

About the Leonard Schanfield Research Institute

The Leonard Schanfield Research Institute, which was established in 1995, is dedicated to collaborative research that addresses the real needs of older adults and their families and the systems that support them. Many of its research projects develop into programs and services that become integrated into CJE’s comprehensive network of programs and services for older adults and their families. For example, its research on Parkinson’s disease developed into a Parkinson’s training program that was implemented for staff members. This nationally-recognized research institute enjoys partnerships with Northwestern University, Rush University, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago and many more organizations.

Current LSRI Grants and Subcontracts

The Population Health Project— This is an assessment project to help us understand the diverse aspects of our client population’s health status, including identification of chronic health conditions, healthcare needs and healthcare providers. This kind of information will allow us to better maintain our relevance in meeting the needs of older adults in our community.

Medication Use Questionnaire— This is one of the first questionnaires of its kind to be used as a tool to evaluate how medications are being used, whether prescriptions are understood correctly, if medications are causing financial concerns and many other important factors.

Gauging Health and Wellness of Older Adults in Lincoln Park— A joint project with the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago. As the name suggests, this is a study to learn about the changing health and wellness needs of adults as they grow and age in an urban environment.

Community Engagement for Early Recognition and Immediate Action in Stroke (CEERIAS)— A subcontract from Northwestern University. Certain minorities do not call their city’s 911 emergency service response system when experiencing a stroke. This is a study to understand why there are such wide population discrepancies in utilizing this community service for an acute health crisis and to create a city-wide intervention to reduce these discrepancies.

Motivational Interviewing and Physical Activity in Parkinson’s Disease— A subcontract from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The goal of this project is to test the efficacy of a telephone-based motivational interviewing and coaching intervention and a smartphone application for self-monitoring to improve physical activity in persons with Parkinson’s disease.

Evaluation of Illinois’ Dementia-Capable State Grant— A subcontract from the Illinois Department on Aging. To evaluate a systems change process taken on by the State of Illinois to provide a foundation for building a more dementia- capable state. A dementia-capable state is described as one that provides the highest possible quality of life for all state residents (and their families and caregivers) with dementia.

The Illinois Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP)— A subcontract from Rush University Medical Center. The GWEP is focused on educating older adults, families, caregivers, students, and professionals about person-centered, culturally competent management of Multiple Chronic Conditions, and to transform existing primary care systems to meet the needs of older adults with Multiple Chronic Conditions.

Caring Together, Living Better— A subcontract from AgeOptions. LSRI is evaluating this grassroots interfaith partnership to build a regional network of support for caregivers of older adults living in the Western Suburbs of Chicago.

The Leonard Schanfield Research Institute is another example of how CJE SeniorLife embodies the value of innovation with its dedication to fostering and stimulating meaningful and useful new knowledge in the field of aging. If you are a CJE client (English or Russian-speaking) and would like to take part in a Research Study please call 773.508.1301 for more information.