Investigator-Initiated Research

Current Projects and Collaborations

Research project meetingInvestigator-Initiated Research (IIR) projects within the Aurora Research Institute represent ongoing collaborations with other disciplines and outside institutions.

Through these projects, investigators evaluate clinical and programmatic interventions to enhance patient-centered health care outcomes.

IIR Service Areas

  • Core Service Areas - cancer/oncology, cardiovascular, neuroscience, women’s health
  • Emerging Service Areas of Research Innovation - informatics, gastroenterology, underserved populations, geriatrics/aging, orthopedics, transplant, biomedical, behavioral health, wellness/chronic disease prevention, nursing

Current Projects and Collaborations within IIR Service Areas

Core Service Areas:

  1. Fifteen-Year Experience with Carpentier-Edwards Bovine Pericardial Valve (Dr. Ahmed Dalmar). The purpose of this study is to report the long-term outcome (survival, valve damage and reoperation) of up to 15 years of experience with Carpentier-Edwards pericardial valve. This is a historical cohort study of patients with bovine aortic pericardial valve replacement performed between 1992 and 2008 at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. Internal partner: Dr. Paul Werner.
  2. Are We Missing Opportunities to Prevent Preeclampsia? Assessment of Vitamin D Level in Pregnant Women Presenting with Labor at ASMC: A case-control study (Dr. Ahmed Dalmar). The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that there is an association between low vitamin D levels in pregnant women and occurrence of preeclampsia. Subjects were enrolled at Labor and Delivery at Aurora Sinai Medical Center, a central-city tertiary care center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Internal partner: Dr. Danish Siddiqui.
  3. The Predictive Value of Phenotypic/Genotypic Biomarkers in Patients with Breast Cancer. These studies represent multiple projects, each designed to enhance our ability to assess a patient’s potential to undergo effective therapy and to remain free of disease, recurrence or progression. Significant funding is provided by our external partners in support of this work. Internal partner: Dr. Judy Tjoe. External collaborators:  Dr. John Bevel from Genentech Laboratories and the Rock River Medical Research Foundation.
  4. Regulation of Carcinogenesis by the Associated Stroma - A Collaboration between Aurora Health Care and the UCSF Tlsty Research Lab. This study involves the identification of patients with progressive variations of breast cancer and the acquisition of appropriate tissue for in vitro culture. The tissue provided for this study supports the continuing discovery and validation of molecular pathways involved in cancer formation and progression and termination. Internal Partner: Dr. Judy TjoeExternal Partner: Dr. Thea Tlsty and a Vince Lombardi Cancer Center grant.
  5. Anti-Coagulant Pharmacogenetic Clinical Trial Simulations to Predict Improved Patient Outcomes (Dr. Michael Michalkiewicz). The goal of this collaboration is to use Aurora electronic health records to demonstrate that in-silico pharmacogenetic clinical trial simulations, based on actual electronic health record patient data, will allow development of an “optimal” anti-coagulation/anti-clotting dosing protocol that reduces adverse drug responses, improves overall patient outcomes and reduces health disparities in the Aurora patient population in Milwaukee County. External partner: Dr. Peter Tonellato, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  6. Recipient Epidemiology and Donor Evaluation Study III (REDS-III) (Dr. Michael Michalkiewicz). The objective of the REDS-III program is to help ensure safe and effective blood banking and transfusion medicine practices. This is National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute supported project is a collaborative effort involving Blood Center of Wisconsin, Froedtert Hospital, Marshfield Clinic, and Aurora Health Care. External Partner: Dr. Alan Mast, Blood Center of Wisconsin.
  7. Integrated, Individualized, Intelligent Prescribing (I3P) (Dr. Michael Michalkiewicz). The purpose of the I3P project is to introduce genomic based personalized medicine for Aurora cardiovascular and cancer patients.This study will perform a multi-site test of the hypothesis that integrating patient’s genetic data within electronic health records is feasible and can help physicians in choosing more personalized therapies for individual patients. We will establish the processes, knowledge base, and infrastructure necessary to disseminate clinical genetic testing, results reporting, and decision support into diverse hospital and electronic health record systems. External partners: Dr. Joshua C. Denny, Vanderbilt University, and Michael Metheny, Meharry Medical College/Nashville.
  8. Determining the Incidence and Factors of Cardiotoxicity in Breast Cancer Patients Treated with Anthracycline and/or Trastuzumab-containing Regimen at Aurora Health Care by Developing In-house Natural Language Processing Software (Drs. Scarlet Shi, Vani Nilakantan and Ahmed Dalmar). The goal of this project is to determine the incidence and factors of cardiotoxicity in breast cancer patients treated with anthracycline and/or Trastuzumab-containing regimen at Aurora Health Care by developing in house natural language processing software. Internal partners:Dr. Anthony DeFranco, Dr. Bijoy Khandheria, Dr. Arshad Jahangir, Dr. Charles Bomzer, Dr. Judy Tjoe,  Lisa Robinson and Mary Kissinger. External partner: Dr. Jun Zhang from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  9. BH4 in Hyperoxic Lung Injury in Newborn (Dr. Scarlet Shi). The objective of this project is to use Sprague-Dawley rat pups to study the role of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) in hyperoxic lung injury in newborn. External partner: Dr. Ru-Jeng Teng from the Medical College of Wisconsin.
  10. Biophysics of HDL Dysfunction (Dr. Scarlet Shi). The objective is to develop a highly-innovative, simple and effective assay (biolayer interferometry) to measure HDL functionality in order to screen for risk of atherosclerosis. External partner: Dr. Kirkwood A. Pritchard from Medical College of Wisconsin.
  11. A Goal-Oriented and Physician- Directed Cancer Survivor Exercise Program Evaluation. Research shows that exercise improves breast cancer survivor health outcomes; however, exercise is not an inherent part of cancer care. The project’s primary goal is to assess whether participating in a formal, clinician-directed and goal-oriented physical activity training program with a breast cancer treatment cohort leads to positive physiological and psychosocial outcomes, and whether any behavioral change is sustained (individual adoption of an exercise regime following the end of formal programming). Internal partner:  Dr. Judy Tjoe and Leslie Waltke, PT. External partners:  Dr. Alexander Ng and Dr. Paula Papanek.

Emerging Service Areas:

  1. Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding (LAGB): 10-year experience of a single surgeon in Milwaukee (Dr. Ahmed Dalmar). This retrospective cohort study summarizes the experience of more than 800 Milwaukee patients who underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding at the Aurora Sinai Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence over a 10-year-period. The study focuses on the role of different techniques in the effectiveness and safety of the Lap-Band and its economic impact. External partner: Dr. Thomas Chua.
  2. Racial Disparities in Kidney Transplantation (Drs. Vani Nilakantan, Scarlet Shi and Ahmed Dalmar, and Brittany Tybinko). The goal of this study is to dissect out the underlying biological and sociologic factors that result in racial disparities in survival rates and graft function in kidney transplant recipients at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. This study will identify the risk factors that may adversely affect kidney transplant outcome with the goal of highlighting areas suited for targeted interventions that would improve outcomes across different ethnic/racial groups. Internal partner: Dr. Ajay Sahajpal.
  3. Alcohol Treatment in Primary Care (Dr. Vani Nilakantan). This descriptive study aims to: 1) recognize the alcoholic liver disease (ALD) versus the non-alcoholic liver disease (non-ALD) population in demographics, psychosocial history, alcoholism, and co-morbid psychopathologies and their management; and 2) investigate the management practices of alcoholism in ALD patients to provide insight to develop treatment approaches. Internal partner: Dr. Vani Ray.