Dr. Jing Li Receives NIH/NIA K01 Award for Quasi-Experimental Study

Dr. Jing Li

Dr. Jing Li, assistant professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine, has been awarded a NIH/NIA K01 award for “Effect of Medicare Reimbursement for Care Planning on End of Life Care among Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias: A Quasi-Experimental Study.” 

According to Dr. Li, this study causally evaluates the impact of two recent changes in Medicare reimbursement policies promoting advance care planning (ACP) practice on end-of-life care utilization among patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). 

ADRD are becoming an increasingly common cause of death as the U.S. population ages. More than 40% of Medicare patients aged 65 and older who die in a given year have ADRD, including those who die of other causes. However, end-of-life care for ADRD patients is often overly aggressive and costly, as terminally ill ADRD patients frequently lack the capacity to understand complex medical information or make treatment decisions for themselves. ACP is the discussion between physicians and patients regarding patient preferences and goals of care in the event of the patient losing decision-making capacity. This holds promise in curbing overly aggressive end-of-life care for ADRD patients. However, it has not been reimbursed until recently.

Dr. Li’s main objective with this study is to provide rigorous evidence to directly inform effective policies targeted at improving end-of-life care for ADRD patients. Another goal is to obtain the critical mentoring and training needed to become an independent health economist, studying policies and mechanisms that improve well-being of the aging population, particularly ADRD patients. This means focusing on policies mediated through physician and patient medical decision making. 

The NIH/NIA K01 award is a mentored research scientist development award that supports career change and career enhancement. It will assist Dr. Li for five years, with salary support for a bulk of her time each year and additional research funds.

Unsurprisingly, this award means a lot for Dr. Li. “Personally, it feels gratifying to be recognized by highly accomplished reviewers and NIH for the work I have done during my early career as a researcher,” she says. “Professionally, this award offers incredible opportunities and valuable resources for me to focus on developing my career and research in aging, ADRD and end-of-life care. These are areas to which I am still very much new and have a lot to learn from experts in relevant fields.” 

Dr. Li credits her mentors at Weill Cornell Medicine for being instrumental in the development of her career and in the success of this NIH/NIA K01 application. 

“My primary mentor and division chief, Dr. Lawrence Casalino, is highly invested in my career and has provided invaluable mentoring on all aspects of my research and career development, for every step of the way,” Dr. Li says. “My co-mentor, Dr. Holly Prigerson, was the one who inspired me to pursue research in end-of-life care and has been incredibly generous with her time and support.” 

She also notes Dr. Susan Mitchell, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Amy S. Kelley, associate professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital; Dr. Sean Nicholson, professor and director of the Sloan program at Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology; Dr. Samprit Banerjee, associate professor of biostatistics in population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine; and Dr. Ronald Adelman, Emilie Roy Corey Professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology and professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, for providing valuable insights and support throughout this process.

The help and support Dr. Li has received from her mentors has made her realize how big of an impact good mentorship can have on one’s research and career trajectory. “I would love the opportunity to make that impact on others,” she says. “I have been mentoring master’s students, which has been an extremely rewarding experience.” 

Overall, Dr. Li is appreciative of every contributor at Weill Cornell Medicine for helping her make a difference. “The extremely supportive environment of our department and Weill Cornell at large is indispensable for the small success I have today. The countless advice I received from senior faculty and peer support from junior faculty has been highly valuable in my professional development.”

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