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CHIBE Q&A: Vanessa Madden, BSc Hons

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Get to know CHIBE’s Vanessa Madden, BSc Hons, Assistant Director for Project Management at the Palliative and Advanced Illness Research (PAIR) Center, in this Q&A.

What projects are you working on now?

The two clinical trials that have my focus right now are both large pragmatic trials with external health systems, in keeping with the [PAIR] Center’s focus to conduct real-world research in the settings where most Americans receive their care. The first study partners with Ascension to understand the effectiveness of inpatient palliative care, by changing the default ordering system for consult services from opt-in to opt-out. The second study is a smoking cessation trial across four health systems, with recent additional funding to understand the dual adverse impacts of COVID-19 and systemic racism on the willingness and ability of older, underserved individuals to engage with preventative health care services. Other things keeping me busy this fall are support for grant proposals and other projects in our research portfolio, as well as helping our Director of Research Operations oversee some of our newer programs, such as the Pitch An Idea for Research (PAIR with PAIR) program and our new Penn Roybal Center on Palliative Care in Dementia.

What do you find rewarding about your work?

Now, more than ever, I’m proud to see the real-world impact of our Center’s work on the larger community. Not long after we started seeing a surge of critically ill patients in Philadelphia, one of our team members shared a slide that said: “What do you want to be during COVID-19?” with an emphasis on growth opportunities. In that spirit, our faculty led several initiatives this spring to help guide the health system response to the pandemic, from prediction modeling to emergency preparedness, crisis management and resource allocation, clinician wellness, and family communication plans. It was immensely rewarding to see our prior work be immediately useful to front-line clinicians. I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on how critical care is such a team-based endeavor and that the team at PAIR has always been my favorite thing about coming to work, albeit over BlueJeans nowadays!

What drew you to the field of palliative care?

Like many people, I’m drawn to the holistic nature of palliative care and the extra layer of support that it provides to seriously ill patients and their families when they need it most. During my time at the University of Florida, I helped to lead a statewide evaluation of a pediatric palliative care program and was constantly humbled by both the strength of families and the dedication of hospice providers. I feel very fortunate to have been able to continue working in this field in Philadelphia, and am especially proud to be involved with the establishment of our Roybal Center in partnership with Genesis HealthCare. In recent years my mother has battled a progressive illness, receiving respite from a nursing home, and so on a personal level I truly appreciate the commitment of organizations such as Genesis to scholarship to improve care services for their long-term residents.