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College of Social Work

Pilot Projects

Pilot project proposals are annually solicited that will use secondary datasets to explore the sociocultural, behavioral and environmental determinants of ADRD health disparities. Datasets to be used include the South Carolina Alzheimer’s Disease Registry, the Health and Retirement Study, or the Behavioral Risk Factor and Surveillance System. Research projects may be funded up to $30,000. An applicant may request a project period of 12 months beginning July 1 and ending June 30. The call for proposals is released in the spring of each year and will be distributed widely and posted on this webpage.

Eligible applicants include:

  1. Junior faculty or mid-career faculty transitioning to ADRD research.
  2. Faculty who have academic appointments at Allen University, Claflin University, Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University, or the University of South Carolina.

For more in depth information regarding the application process, please view our CCADMR Pilot Project Informational Webinar.

CCADMR Funded Projects

Nicole Davis

Nicole Davis, Ph.D., APRN, AGPCNP-BC, GNP-BC (2018-19)

Project Title: Addressing ADRD Health Disparities between Urban and Rural Populations in South Carolina

Project Description: The aims of this study are to (1) determine whether sociodemographic factors (e.g. race, gender, geographic location) contribute to ADRD prevalence across counties within South Carolina, and (2) examine the variation of health utilization across racial/ethnic groups, between urban and rural counties, and by their associations with ADRD types and health-related outcomes.

Datasets: South Carolina Alzheimer’s Disease Registry

Home Institution: Clemson University

Mentors: Cheryl Dye, Daniela Friedman, Mindi Spencer

Miriam Evans

Miriam Evans, EdD, MEd, MCHES (2018-19)

Project Title: Multi-Morbidity, Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Types, and Mortality in South Carolina

Project Description: The aims of this study are to (1) estimate the prevalence of clusters of multi-morbidity by ADRD type and compare differences by race, and (2) estimate the association between multi-morbidity and mortality focusing on median survival time and all-cause mortality risk.

Datasets: South Carolina Alzheimer’s Disease Registry

Home Institution: South Carolina State University

Mentors: Cheryl Armstead, Maggi Miller, Jacobo Mintzer

Andrea Henderson-Platt

Andrea Henderson-Platt, Ph.D. (2018-19)

Project Title: Religion and Cognitive Functioning: Race-Ethnicity and Gender Differences in Older Americans

Project Description: The aim of this study is to examine whether the association between various dimensions of religious involvement and cognition varies by race-ethnicity and gender simultaneously, and if this relationship is explained by psychosocial mechanisms.

Datasets: Health and Retirement Study

Home Institution: University of South Carolina

Mentors: Sue Levkoff, Katrina Walsemann, Sara Wilcox

Caroline Hartnett, PhD

Caroline Hartnett, Ph.D. (2019-20)

Project Title: Racial Disparities in Cognitive Impairment: The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Project Description: The purpose of this study is to examine whether adverse experiences in childhood help explain Black-White disparities in cognitive impairment at older ages. The investigator will use the BRFSS data set and analyze measures of adverse childhood experiences  and cognitive impairment (along with selected covariates).

Datasets: Behavioral Risk Factor and Surveillance System

Home Institution: USC

Mentors: Cheryl Dye, Maggi Miller, Mindi Spencer

Karina Liles, PhD

Karina Liles, Ph.D. (2019-20)

Project Title: Using Artificial Intelligence to Identify and Predict ADRD Risks

Project Description: Using decision tree models to examine existing health datasets, this project focuses on understanding the determinants of ADRD for African Americans in South Carolina and using the findings to predict the risk of ADRD for AAs in the state with the ultimate aim of developing a social robot to engage the community in discussions and activities related to ADRD.

Datasets: Health and Retirement Study

Home Institution: Claflin University

Mentors: James Hardin, Sue Levkoff, Ben Schooley

Kevin Lu, PhD

Kevin Lu, Ph.D. (2019-20)

Project Title:  Determinants and Disparities in Early Diagnoses of Cognitive Impairment  among the Elderly Population

Project Description: The purpose of this research is to examine the determinants of early diagnoses of cognitive impairment among the elderly; to determine if racial/ethnic disparities exist in early diagnoses of cognitive impairment among the elderly; and to determine if urban-rural disparities exist in early diagnoses of cognitive impairment among the elderly.

Datatsets: Health and Retirement Study

Home Institution: USC

Mentors: Daniela Friedman, Ye Luo, Katrina Walsemann

monique brown headshot

Monique Brown, Ph.D., MPH (2020-21)

Project Title: Health Disparities in HIV, Depression, and Alzheimer's Disease in South Carolina

Project Description: The specific aims of this study will be to, using path analysis: 1) Examine the mediational role of depression in the association between an HIV/AIDS diagnosis and HAD; 2) Determine the mediational role of HAD between HIV/AIDS and AD; and 3) Assess the mediational role of HAD between depression and AD.

Datasets: South Carolina Alzheimer's Disease Registry 

Home Institution: USC

Mentors: Maggi Miller, Omar Bagasra, Lucy Ingram


Kaileigh Byrne, Ph.D. (2020-21)

Project Title:  Identifying Racial Disparities of Dementia: The Role of Social Isolation and Social Technology Use

Project Description: The objective of this proposal is to identify racial and rural disparities in the interaction between social isolation and social technology use on dementia. This objective will be accomplished by conducting structural equational modeling analyses on the Health and Retirement Study data. It is anticipated that (a) the detrimental effect of social isolation on dementia risk will be greater in minority groups and in rural-living individuals compared to Caucasians and urban dwellers, and (b) lower social technology use will reduce the negative effects of social isolation on dementia, and (c) the magnitude of this interaction will be greater for minority groups and rural dwelling elderly. 

Datasets: Health and Retirement Study

Home Institution: Clemson University

Mentors: Cheryl Dye, James Hardin, Sue Levkoff

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Stephanie Ureña, Ph.D., MPH (2020-21)

Project Title: The Impacts of Military Service on Cognitive Function and Racial Disparities

Project Description: The proposed project will use nationally representative, longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study – public and restricted – and newly established cognitive function measures within HRS to examine the impact of military service on racial disparities in cognitive functioning at the population level, and to gauge if there are racial disparities in the diagnosis of veterans with ADRD.

Datasets: Health and Retirement Study

Home Institution: USC

Mentors: Katrina Walsemann, Jacobo Mintzer, Nikki Wooten

headshot for chao cai

Chao Cai, Ph.D. (2021-22)

Project Title: Evaluate Effects of Determinants on Diagnosis of ADRD Using Novel Statistical Cure Model

Project Description: The proposed project utilizes a novel
statistical cure model framework to improve the ability to evaluate the association between
determinants and diagnosis of ADRD in later life. Hormone therapy will be used as an example
to illustrate the application of this advanced methodological technique in the field of ADRD

Datasets: SEER/Medicare

Home Institution: USC

Mentors: Marvella Ford, James Hardin, Kevin Lu

headshot for miao li

Miao Li, Ph.D. (2021-22)

Project Title: Childhood Adversities, Race, and Late-life Cognition: Socio-behavioral pathways

Project Description: The proposed study investigates whether the impact of early life adversities on cognitive functioning in later life might be operative through some modifiable risk factors in adulthood and whether such pathways may vary across racial groups. 

Datasets: Health and Retirement Study

Home Institution: Clemson University 

Mentors: Ye Luo, Maggi Miller, Miriam Evans

headshot for zahra rahemi

Zahra Rahemi, Ph.D., MSN (2021-22)

Project Title: Addressing Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Advance Care Planning Disparities among Diverse Populations 

Project Description: Our central hypothesis is that the rate of care planning and hospice utilization will vary across groups with different race, ethnicity, social background, and living conditions. Our long-term goal is to reduce disparities of care, including hospice, for diverse and underserved persons with ADRD through developing and implementing systems of support to encourage early ACP conversations prior to losing decision-making capacity. Our overall strategy is implementation of an observational and cross-sectional study using the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) dataset.

Datasets: Health and Retirement Study

Home Institution: Clemson University

Mentors: Cheryl Dye, Swann Adams, Kaileigh Byrne

headshot for Christy Phillips

Christine Phillips, Ph.D. (2022-23)

Project Title: Early Detection of Cognitive Decline: Examining Motor and IADL Functions in the Context of Neighborhood Disadvantage

Project Description:  

Using secondary data available through the NIA-funded Neighborhood Atlas, we will purposefully recruit mid-life and older adult participants from neighborhoods of higher and lower disadvantage for primary data collection. After a brief telephone screening, interested individuals who meet eligibility criteria will be invited to participate in the study. Enrolled participants will provide written informed consent and complete self-report questionnaires related to health and lifestyle factors prior to completing a battery of in-lab and remote motor and IADL assessments linked to cognitive domains that deteriorate with progression of ADRD visit to provide feedback. All study activities will take place at an initial in-lab visit, at home (remote daily assessments), or at final in-lab visit, spanning a period of approximately 2.5 - 3 weeks.

Home Institution: Clemson University

Mentors: Cheryl Dye, Sue Levkoff, Swann Adams, Nicole Davis

headshot for Lu Shi

Lu Shi, Ph.D., MA (2022-23)

Project Title: Did Desegregation Reduce Cognitive Decline across Racial Groups?

Project Description:

Segregation might have contributed to the racial disparity in dementia via pathways such as education and incarceration. In this proposed study, we will examine the link between the childhood exposure to desegregated school environment and the adulthood cognitive outcomes among the minority populations, using the nationally representative longitudinal dataset of Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and its Life History Mail Survey (LHMS) component.

Dataset: Health and Retirement Study

Home Institution: Clemson University

Mentors: James Hardin, Marvella Ford, Lucy Ingram, Andrea Henderson-Platt


headshot for jingkai wei

Jingkai Wei, Ph.D., MSPH (2022-23)

Project Title: Racial Disparity of Dementia Risk Factors, Health Insurance Coverage, and Prevention of Dementia

Project Description:

The aims of this study are to (1) Compare the trend of risk scores of dementia among adults between 50 and 65 years by Black and White populations from 2006 to 2016, (2) Formally test health insurance coverage as a potential mediator between race and dementia, (3) Emulate a target trial of long-term physical activity on cognitive decline and incident dementia and estimate the effect. This study will be conducted using the dataset of Health and Retirement Study.

Dataset: Health and Retirement Study

Home Institution: USC

Mentors: Matt Lohman, James Hardin, Monique Brown

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