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Research in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care

Research into the aging process is our most powerful tool for promoting longevity (life span) and enhancing quality of life (health span) for older adults. 

Alison A. Moore, MD, MPH, Division Chief, brings to UC San Diego over 20 years of research experience focused on the epidemiology and health-related effects of alcohol and other substances among diverse populations; and developing and testing screening and brief interventions to reduce unhealthy alcohol use among older adults and other diverse populations. Her ongoing research is testing a behavioral intervention (Motivational Enhancement Therapy) and case management to reduce heavy drinking among socially disadvantaged Latinos.  The intervention is delivered by community health workers and the study is done in partnership with a community-based health care organization.  Other ongoing research is developing and testing a voice-based assistive technology (e.g., Alexa) to assist older adults with health care needs.  She is also one of the Principal Investigators of an Alzheimer’s Disease focused Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (ADRCMAR), funded by the National Institute on Aging to support underrepresented early-stage investigators to conduct research in Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, particularly in Latino populations. Click here to view her publications. 

Anthony Molina, PhD, is Vice Chief of Research for the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care and an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine. He joined UC San Diego in 2018 from Wake Forest School of Medicine. He has a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a gerontologist and translational researcher with his main research focus being on the role of mitochondrial bioenergetics in aging and age-related diseases/conditions. Dr. Molina has established a strong track record as a team-oriented, collaborative, translational researcher, both as a Principal Investigator of several NIA-funded multi-disciplinary projects and as a key co-investigator studying the role of mitochondrial bioenergetics in a variety of age-related conditions. Click here to find out more about his work. 

Benjamin H. Han, MD MPH is Assistant Professor in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care within the Department of Medicine. He is a geriatrician, addiction medicine physician, and a clinician-researcher. His research focuses on the intersection of chronic medical disease and substance use disorders. The aim of his research is to better manage chronic diseases among adults with substance use disorders as well as understand the changing trends of substance use among older adults. His work integrates the principles of evidence-based geriatric medicine with addiction medicine and harm reduction interventions. He is currently funded by a K23 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to embed geriatric-based interventions into opioid treatment programs. Click here to view his publications.

Biren Kamdar, MD, MBA, MHS Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine. Dr. Kamdar is a health services researcher is the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. His NIA-funded research focuses on sleep-wake rhythms in the intensive care unit (ICU); in particular, methods to evaluate sleep in critically ill adults and to measure the effect of interventions to improve sleep-wake cycles on delirium and other important outcomes. Dr. Kamdar is also involved in system-wide delirium detection and prevention efforts. Click here to find out more about his work. 

Maile Karris, MD, is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care, in addition to the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health.  She is a clinical translational researcher who is trained and published in the impact of antiretroviral therapy regimens on HIV associated T lymphocyte immunology and the association of HIV associated inflammation on clinical outcomes. Her interest in inflammation and its impact of clinical outcomes and her steadily aging clinical practice of people living with HIV has lead her to research questions focused on older adults living with HIV (OALWH). Current projects include characterization of the syndemics of aging with HIV, exploring the impact of polypharmacy in OALWH on geriatric conditions, and evaluation of HIV provider opinions on caring for OALWH. She is also collaborating with Dr. Robert Owens on a proposal to characterize the endotypes and phenotypes of obstructive sleep apnea in people living with HIV, and Dr. Peter Mazonson to develop an online support for OALWH community (Aging with Dignity, Health, Optimism and Community or ADHOC). Click here to find out more about her work.

María J. Marquine, Ph.D. is Director of Disparities Research and an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, with a joint secondary appointment in the Department of Psychiatry. She is a Spanish/English bilingual neuropsychologist and clinical scientist with expertise in cross-cultural neuropsychology and aging research. She attained her doctoral degree in clinical psychology (neuropsychology track) at the University of Arizona, and completed post-doctoral studies in clinical neuropsychology at Duke University and in geriatric mental health and neuroAIDS research at UC San Diego. Her research focuses on identifying mechanisms underlying neurocognitive disparities in older Hispanics/Latinos with and without HIV, and developing methods for the early identification of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias in underrepresented groups. She is passionate about increasing diversity in the research workforce, and serves leadership roles in several research training programs. Click here to find out more about her work.

Tala Al-Rousan, MD, MPH is Assistant Professor and founding faculty at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity brings to UC San Diego expertise in health equity research focusing on marginalized populations. Dr. Al-Rousan has extensive expertise in global health epidemiological research in limited resource settings. She has studied the impact of institutionalization on brain health, function, and disease outcomes in older adults. She studies vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations including refugees in camps, incarcerated adults, older mobile home dwellers in trailer parks and older adults in nursing homes. Trained in medicine and epidemiology in Jordan, Egypt and the US, Dr. Al-Rousan’s ongoing research focuses on designing evidence-based interventions and health policies that reduce health disparities using a human rights approach to health and aging. In San Diego, she is currently leading a hypertension self-management intervention study among Middle Eastern and East African refugees and another study assessing perceptions, attitudes and behaviors towards dementia among recently-resettled Syrian and Iraqi refugees, one of the fastest growing foreign-born populations in San Diego. Internationally, she is leading a study on the impact of encampment on cognition in Jordan and Lebanon, and is part of a study assessing hypertension management in Peru, Malawi and Cameroon. Dr. Al-Rousan is a former Doctors Without Borders physician having served in Yemen and at the headquarters in Switzerland, a current Atlantic fellow for Equity in Brain Health at UC San Francisco and the Rhodes House in Oxford, England, and a Bernard Lown Fellow at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Melody Schiaffino, PhD, MPH, is an assistant professor, health services researcher, and epidemiologist in the School of Public Health at San Diego State University, and affiliated faculty in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care. She is also a core investigator at the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health (IBACH) and a visiting professor in Radiation Medicine at UCSD Moores Cancer Center in La Jolla. She is a bilingual, bi-cultural healthcare delivery systems, cancer, and aging disparities researcher. Her current focus is on building the evidence base for pioneering the use of data and systems science to improve outcomes for diverse older adults. Her existing expertise in health services research and organizational theory, health disparities, and language services have helped her develop an understanding of cancer care delivery and aging disparities. Her goals are to 1) understand how healthcare is delivered to aging populations undergoing cancer treatment and 2) leverage massive administrative, EHR, and similar data sets to identify risk factors and inform the development of culturally appropriate, technology-driven interventions that can improve care to diverse and vulnerable older adults. She believes that understanding the role of non-clinical pathways, race/ethnicity, age, and other patient and provider factors on treatment (intermediate treatment toxicities, timely care, effectiveness, efficiency), is critical for tailoring care delivery and improving sub-optimal outcomes. Dr. Schiaffino has also been awarded two pilot project awards through the San Diego Alzheimer's Disease Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (AD-RCMAR), with her current project focused on improving the identification of dementia in cancer research using claims data for diverse older adults. 


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In addition, the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care is fortunate to have multiple collaborations with researchers at UC San Diego conducting aging-related studies and projects. Some of our collaborators include: 

The Center for Healthy Aging and Stein Institute for Research on Aging (Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Healthy Aging & Senior Care): The Center for Healthy Aging demonstrates the commitment that UC San Diego has made to the area of healthy aging. An important goal of the Center is to bring together groups at UC San Diego that are conducting clinical care or research in the area of healthy aging. Dr. Jeste is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist and one of the world's leading experts in the field of aging. For over 10 years, Dr. Jeste has also been director of the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, an Organized Research Unit with 135 faculty members from different departments within the UCSD School of Medicine. At the Stein Institute, Dr. Jeste and colleagues' work has focused on successful cognitive, physical, and emotional aging at the clinical, translational, and basic science levels. 

The Gary and Mary West UC San Diego Senior Emergency Care (Ted Chan, MD, Chair, and Vaishal Tolia, MD, MPH, FACEP, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine): As a result of $11.8 million in funding provided by philanthropists Gary and Mary West, UC San Diego created The Gary and Mary West Senior Emergency Care Unit to provide state-of-the-art emergency care to older adults and enable a multi-year medical research initiative in partnership with the West Health Institute.