Home » Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC) » Cores » Research Education Component (REC)

Research Education Component (REC)

The Research Education Component (REC) recognizes that training in aging research faces several unique challenges, including difficulties recruiting geriatricians into research careers and a lack of training in the principles of aging research by other medical disciplines.

The objective of the Research Education Component will be to develop the next generation of researchers who will become leaders in integrating basic science and clinical insights into innovative interventions promoting reserve and resilience in late life.

AIMS of the Research Education Component
  1. Coordinate delivery of Aging research curriculum to early investigators across the University
  2. Provide a structure for individualized Aging and Research mentorship at Duke
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of Aging research across the Duke OAIC

Cathleen Colón-Emeric, MD, MHS
Associate Director-Clinical at the Durham VA Geriatrics Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), Adjunct Faculty at the Duke School of Nursing and Duke Clinical Research Institute

Current research focuses on the epidemiology, prediction, and prevention of osteoporotic fractures in elderly persons, and in improving the quality of care delivered to residents in skilled nursing facilities. Ongoing projects include a large, administrative database study of osteoporosis screening in men, a randomized trial of different staff education strategies to improve fall prevention in nursing homes, and several clinical demonstration projects. In 2017, Dr Colón-Emeric received the Clinical Sciences Research Mentoring Award from the Department of Medicine, and in 2018 she was appointed Associate Dean for Research Mentoring for the School of Medicine.

Kimberly Johnson, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Associate Director of the CTSA KL-2 program

Dr Johnson leads the Duke Center for REsearch to AdvanCe Healthcare Equity (REACH), where researchers study the effect of a clinician communication coaching intervention—teaching empathic skills and eliciting participatory behaviors—on the quality of communication in cardiology encounters with African American patients; test the use of a mobile app for African American patients receiving palliative care in the ICU and their families to self-report needs, obtain information about patient/family needs, and access decisional support; and develop and pilot test an implicit bias training intervention for providers.

Research Education Component
Daniel Belsky, PhD
Quantification of molecular signatures of resilience in aging

My interests involve investigation of the molecular signatures of resilience to early-life adversity. These include analysis of the association of early-life disadvantage with accelerated aging in midlife, analysis of CALERIE trial data to test if caloric restriction slows biological aging, and analyses to compare multiple methods to quantify biological aging. Additional research aims to identify risk factors in early- to mid-life that can be ameliorated or reversed, and measurement of the effectiveness of these amelioration strategies.

Rasheeda Hall, MD
Resilience in older dialysis patients

I am a nephrologist with both clinical and research interests in geriatric assessment for kidney disease patients. My Pepper-related research aims to understand how dialysis initiation may contribute to changes in physical function and if there is a resilient phenotype of patients who either recover or maintain physical function after dialysis initiation. This research is conducted through primarily data collection from patients aged 65 and older who receive dialysis. I plan to use this information to determine if routine functional tests and other aspects of geriatric assessment are feasible in the dialysis setting.

Juliessa Pavon, MD
Mobile health technology to improve hospital ambulatory activity

There is lack of a reliable and clinically meaningful way to measure mobility in the inpatient setting. Using mobile health technology such as wearable accelerometers is a possible solution. The purpose of this project is to determine whether gathered mobility data by wearable technologies predicts clinically meaningful outcomes, to understand how providers and patients would use this information, and test consumer grade activity monitors in the inpatient setting. Future directions of this work are to explore clinically meaningful thresholds of inpatient mobility activity, and develop a multifactorial mobility promotion intervention using wearable technologies that includes electronic medical record alerts to physicians and feedback to patients.

Micah McClain, MD
Genomic signatures of resilience to viral infections

My current research involves analysis of host genomic and immunologic responses in acute infections, including examining host responses to infectious challenge in vulnerable populations such as elderly and immunosuppressed individuals. Additional ongoing work focuses on defining the host response to fungal infections, tick-borne illnesses, and other emerging infectious diseases as well as the immunologic mechanisms that drive resilience to infection in human hosts.


Since its inception, the Duke Pepper Center has produced an impressive portfolio of relevant research and innovations in faculty development. One of its many accomplishments is support and mentoring of numerous promising investigators whose careers focus on relevant aging related research at Duke. In 2009, in recognition of the contributions of these young investigators, career development and pilot project awardees, the Duke Pepper Center established a Duke Pepper Scholars Program.

Mehri McKellar, MD, Division of Infectious Diseases

Richard Lee, MD, Endocrinology and Metabolism

Rasheeda Hall, MD, Endocrinology and Metabolism

Dan Belsky, PhD, Geriatrics

Farshid Guilak, PhD, Orthopedic Surgery and Cell Biology

Susan Nichole Hastings, MD, Geriatrics

Matthew Hirschey, PhD, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Kimberly Johnson, MD, Geriatrics

Katherine Hall, PhD, Geriatrics

Juliessa Pavon, MD, Geriatrics

Kent Nilsson, MD, Cardiology

Raquel R. Bartz, MD, Anesthesiology

Arati Rao, MD, Medicine

Jason Allen, PhD, Cardiology

Katherine Hall, PhD, Geriatrics

Jennifer Dungan, RN, PhD, School of Nursing

Timothy Koves, PhD, Geriatrics

Thomas Povsic, MD, Cardiology

Amy Pastva, PhD, Community and Family Medicine

William Michael Foster, PhD, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

Matthew Peterson, PhD, Geriatrics

Lee Jones, PhD, Radiation Oncology

Kelli Allen, PhD, General Internal Medicine

Jessica Chia, MD, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine

Jason Allen, PhD, Cardiology

Gregory Sempowski, PhD, Duke Human Vaccine Institute

David Madden, PhD, Psychiatry and Behaviorial Sciences

Beverly Brummett, MD, Medical Psychology

Helen Lum, MD, Geriatrics

James T. Cavanaugh PT, PhD, Geriatrics

Kim Huffman, MD, Rheumatology and Immunology

Deborah M. Muoio, PhD, Endocrinology & Metabolomics

Jama L. Purser, PT, PhD, Geriatrics

Svati H. Shah, MD, MHS, Epidemiology, Medical Genomics

Heather E. Whitson, MD, Geriatrics

Beverly Brummett, MD, Medical Psychology


Colón-Emeric CS, Corazzini K, McConnell E, Pan W, Toles M, Hall R, Batchelor-Murphy M, Yap TL, Anderson AL, Burd A, Anderson RA. Study of Individualization and Bias in Nursing Home Fall Prevention Practices. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017 Apr;65(4):815-821. Minority Research Publication [Institutional access] [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Whitson, HE, Johnson, KS, Sloane, R, Cigolle, CT, Pieper, CF, Landerman, L, and Hastings, SN. “Identifying Patterns of Multimorbidity in Older Americans: Application of Latent Class Analysis.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (August 2016). [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Johnson, KS, Payne, R, Kuchibhatla, MN, and Tulsky, JA. “Are Hospice Admission Practices Associated With Hospice Enrollment for Older African Americans and Whites?” Journal of pain and symptom management (April 2016). [PMC free article] [PubMed]