VCU to study patient, public, institutional collaboration in research

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have been approved for a three-year, $749,000 funding award to demonstrate a new method for engaging stakeholders, especially patients, in framing research.

The study is one of 33 proposals the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute approved for funding on July 29 to advance the field of patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research and provide patients, health care providers and other clinical decision-makers with information that will help them make better-informed choices.

Selection of research topics is usually done by researchers or sponsors alone, but collaboration with stakeholders such as patients, caregivers and health care workers is expected to result in more robust causal models and more relevant research questions in health-related studies.

“Participation has the benefit of generating research that is consistent with the concerns, needs and values of stakeholders. Those with diverse viewpoints can bring a range of perspectives and priorities, as well as a greater level of understanding about the processes by which social and environmental factors affect health-related behaviors, decision-making and health outcomes,” said Emily Zimmerman, Ph.D., principal investigator on the award, who is senior researcher in the VCU Center on Society and Health and associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health at the VCU School of Medicine.

VCU's Center on Society and Health and the Massey Cancer Center will conduct the qualitative demonstration with community-based teams at an urban site in Richmond and a rural site in South Hill, Virginia. The teams at these sites will identify and recruit relevant stakeholders who will then be guided through processes to identity factors affecting various health outcomes, develop research questions based on those factors, and prioritize questions into proposed research agendas.

Zimmerman and her team developed this method with help from VCU’s Center for Clinical and Translational research, which has provided bridge funding to the Center on Society and Health between grants.

“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our ability to conduct high-quality patient-centered comparative effectiveness research using rigorous methods,” said Joe Selby, M.D., PCORI executive director. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with VCU to share the results.”

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010 to fund clinical effectiveness research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health and health care decisions. PCORI is committed to seeking input from a broad range of stakeholders to guide its work.

The award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract to VCU.

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see

About the VCU Massey Cancer Center

VCU Massey Cancer Center is among the top 4 percent of cancer centers in the country to be designated by the National Cancer Institute to lead and shape America’s cancer research efforts. Working with all kinds of cancers, Massey conducts every form of cancer research, including basic science, translational, clinical and population sciences research; provides state-of-the-art cancer treatments and cutting-edge clinical trials; serves as a vital resource for oncology education, teaching and training; and promotes cancer prevention. Since 1974, Massey has been an internationally recognized center of excellence. Massey provides award-winning cancer care at multiple sites throughout Virginia by leading cancer sub-specialists and offers one of the largest selections of cancer clinical trials as well as a statewide network that brings trials to communities across the commonwealth. Its 1,000-plus researchers, clinicians and staff members are dedicated to improving the quality of human life by discovering, developing, delivering and teaching effective means to prevent, detect, treat and ultimately cure cancer. Visit Massey online or call 877-4-MASSEY for more information.
Emily Zimmerman, Ph.D.
Emily Zimmerman, Ph.D.