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Texas RCMAR Pilot Program

Pilot Program Overview

Texas RCMAR selects pilot projects annually. A structured mentoring program provides skills and research experience necessary to help Scholars become independent investigators and future leaders in aging research. Scholars will acquire extensive research experience; generate, analyze, present and publish research data; and become equipped to compete for independent external research funding (e.g., K01, R01, etc).

Career Development

Each Texas RCMAR Pilot PI will develop an individualized plan that includes specific learning and mentoring needs, relevant educational activities, plans for pilot study generated publications, and goals related to future funding. Be encouraged to participate in the mentoring activities of the Sealy Center on Aging, UTMB Pepper Center, and UTMB CTSA.

Pilot Research Project

A significant part of the career development plan for each Texas RCMAR Pilot PI is the pilot research project. The pilot study involves a mentored, hands-on, research experience that will form the basis for future research development. Each pilot study will involve the preparation of a research proposal, with specific objectives and a sound research design, the concurrent development of an application for IRB approval, analysis/collection of data, presentation of data in seminars, research team meetings, and annual ICAA conference; submission of an abstract for presentation at regional or national scientific meetings, publication of the study results in peer-reviewed journals, and use of the pilot data to develop an external research grant application.


Year 5

Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Non-Medical Prescription Drug Use Among U.S. Older Adults.

PI: Timothy J. Grigsby, PhD, University of Nevada

Mentors: Jay Shen, PhD and Chad L. Cross, PhD, MFT, Pstat(R), C-MDI

Goal: Characterize the trend in prevalence of Non-Medical Prescription Drug Use (NMPDU) in a nationally representative sample of U.S. older adults by race/ethnicity from 2015-2019; and explore how racial/ethnic NMPDU trends vary by education and income level.

Sociodemographic and Neurocognitive Characterization of Mexican American Bilinguals and Monolinguals Presenting with Typical and Pathological Cognitive Aging

PIs: Stephanie Grasso, University of Texas at Austin [https://slhs.utexas.edu/faculty/stephanie-grasso] and Brian Downer, PhD, University of Texas Medical Branch [https://www.utmb.edu/spph/brian-downer-phd]

Goal: Characterize the sociodemographic profile of bilingualism, English proficiency, and language dominance in older Mexican Americans. Estimate the association of bilingualism, English proficiency, and language dominance with changes in cognitive function in Mexican Americans over a 20-year period. Identify cross-sectional differences in brain structure between Mexican American bilinguals and monolinguals presenting with typical cognitive aging, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and Alzheimer’s dementia (AD). Evaluate the effects of bilingualism on longitudinal patterns of neurocognitive decline and the accuracy of deep machine learning to forecast these patterns over a six-year period in Mexican Americans with typical cognitive aging, MCI, and AD.

Contextual Despair and Risk Behaviors in Midlife: Extending Innovative Measures to Add Health

PIs: Lauren Gaydosh, University of Texas at Austin [https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/sociology/faculty/lmg2487 ] and Iliya Gutin, University of Texas at Austin [https://iliyagutin.web.unc.edu/ ]

Goal: Construct and disseminate socioeconomic, built environment, and population health measures of despair (i.e., contextual despair) at census tract and county level. Investigate whether the contextual despair measures are associated with individual risk behaviors that are precursors to deaths of despair. Examine how the contextual despair measures moderate the relationships between an individual’s educational attainment and risk behaviors.

Year 4

The influence of Natural Disaster Severity on Incident Adverse Health Outcomes among older Mexican Americans.

PI: Amie Hufton, PhD, Texas A&M University at Galveston
Mentors: John Prochaska, PhD and Kyriakos Markides, PhD

Goal: Examine the influence of natural disaster exposure and severity on incident mental, cognitive and physical health indicators among aging Mexican Americans. This retrospective analysis will a) describe the risk factors related to exposure to natural disasters associated with incident depression, cognition, or physical disability, and b) examine inequalities in these health outcomes by nativity (other or US born) in Mexican Americans who have participated in the Hispanic Established Population for the Epidemiological Study of the Elderly (H-EPESE).

Cognitive Demand of Lifetime Occupation among Older Mexican Adults.

PI: Chi-Ying “Cynthia” Li, PhD, University of Texas Medical Branch
Mentors: Rebeca Wong, PhD, and Soham Al Snih, MD, PhD.

Goal: This pilot will test the feasibility of constructing an index of cognitive demand by occupation, using the participants of the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS) and their reported main occupation over the life course. In addition, the project will identify the influence of cognitive demands of occupations on the diverse trajectories of cognitive function in old age among Mexicans. The pilot project will use data from the MHAS 2012 and information on occupational skills available in the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) database, maintained by the US Department of Labor (https://www.onetonline.org/), and MHAS 2012 to 2018 for the trajectories.

Gender Differences in Pain and its Relation to Cognitive Function among Aging Mexicans.

PI: Sadaf Milani, PhD, University of Texas Medical Branch
Mentors: Mukaila Raji, MD, and Rebeca Wong, PhD

Goal: This pilot project will identify gender differences in patterns and covariates of persistent pain between two cohorts that have experienced distinct social changes in Mexico. We will identify sociodemographic, behavioral, and health correlates of pain among older Mexican men and women. We will compare the patterns among two cohorts, using non-overlapping age intervals: those aged 60 to 71 in 2001 and those aged 60 to 71 in 2012. In addition, we will use longitudinal data to assess gender differences in the relationship between persistent pain (reported in 2001/2003) and cognitive function among Mexicans over a 15-year follow-up (2003 to 2018).

Year 3

Caregiving and Disability in Older Vietnamese in the U.S.

PI: Christina E. Miyawaki, PhD, University of Houston
Mentors: Kyriakos Markides, PhD and Hoang Nguyen, PhD

Goal: Examine how caregivers’ characteristics are associated with care recipients’ well-being by using the VACS Wave 1 caregiver-care recipient dyad data (N=67 dyads). Examine how care recipient’s sociodemographic and lifestyle characteristics are associated with their mental health by using the VACS Wave 1 care recipient data (N=132). Compare the prevalence of disability for older Vietnamese (n=10,052) with other older Asian Americans (n=87,958) and non-Hispanic Whites (n=2,406,785) by using the 2014-2018 US Census American Community Survey (ACS) data.

Assessing geographic and cultural disparities in neurocognitive testing in Hispanic Americans with end stage renal disease undergoing evaluation for kidney transplantation.

PI: Michael L Kueht, II, MD, University of Texas Medical Branch
Mentors: Soham Al Snih, MD, PhD and Muhammad Mujtaba, MD

Goal: Assess the prevalence and adequacy of neurocognitive testing in Hispanic Americans with end stage renal disease undergoing evaluation for kidney transplantation at two distant clinic sites within our institution, the Rio Grande Valley and Galveston Island. Determine the factors associated with cognitive impairment among Hispanic Americans with end stage renal disease undergoing evaluation for kidney transplantation at two distant clinic sites within our institution, the Rio Grande Valley and Galveston Island populations

Year 2

Testosterone deficiency, therapy, and mortality among older Hispanic men.

PI: David S. Lopez, MS, MPH, DrPH, University of Texas Medical Branch
Mentors: Yong-fang Kuo, PhD and Kyriakos Markides, PhD

Goal: Determine prospective associations between T deficiency and all-cause, cardiovascular, cancer specific mortality among Hispanic adult men in the NHANES waves (≥ 40 years). We will also explore the interrelations of T deficiency, obesity, urological and dietary factors with all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer-specific mortality. Investigate prospective associations of T therapy with risk of obesity-related cancers (prostate, bladder, and kidney) and cancer-specific mortality among Hispanic adult men (≥ 66 years) in the SEER-Medicare.

Household composition and cognitive change among older adults in Mexico.

PI: Jacqueline Torres, PhD, University of California, San Francisco
Mentors: Rebeca Wong, PhD and Kyriakos Markides, PhD

Goal: Evaluate the feasibility of constructing meaningful variables to capture the change in household composition over time, including respondent and family-member moves in mid to late life. Examine the effect of changes in household composition on cognitive decline for older respondents. We will assess the analytical power of these new variables in models of cognitive function and compare results using conventional techniques for evaluating

Year 1

Life-space mobility, readmission, and mortality following stroke in Mexican Americans.

PI: Monique Pappadis, MEd, PhD, University of Texas Medical Branch
Mentors: Soham Al Snih, MD, PhD and Kenneth Ottenbacher, PhD

Goal: Identify the association among older Mexican Americans between pre-stroke life space mobility and: 1) discharge destination, 2) 30-day re-admission after discharge, and 3) mortality following a stroke, considering ischemic or hemorrhagic strokes with home, rehabilitation facility, or long-term care facility at discharge.

Awareness of cancer risk in Hispanic women aged 50 years and older

PI: Ana M. Rodriguez, MD, MPH, University of Texas Medical Branch
Mentors:  James S. Goodwin, MD and Yong-Fang Kuo, PhD

Goal: Evaluate the impact of certain risk factors on endometrial cancer risk among Hispanic postmenopausal women and describe the pattern of health utilization and proxy awareness of the relationship between obesity, comorbidities, and endometrial cancer risk by estimating health care utilization among Hispanic women aged 50 years and older at risk for endometrial cancer.

Improving healthcare of older adults with ADRD: caregiver-patient dyads in the US and Mexico.

PI: Rafael Samper-Ternent, MD, PhD, University of Texas Medical Branch
Mentors: Rebeca Wong, PhD and Abbey Berenson, MD, PhD

Goal: Characterize patient-caregiver dyads and compare them by race/ethnicity in the US. Perform parallel analysis in Mexico to compare with the US Hispanic population. Address the following Specific Aims: 1) Identify patterns in the patient-caregiver dyads by race/ethnicity in the US and in Mexico; and 2) Compare patient/caregiver dyads of persons in the US and Mexico, and their association with attributes of the care provided.

Texas RCMAR is funded by the National Institute on Aging, Grant Number P30AG059301