USC consists of campuses across Los Angeles areas. Finding experts in certain research field at USC to collaborate can be difficult. SC CTSI supports and facilitate the development of research interest groups at USC to increase collaboration opportunities across USC campuses and affiliated hospitals and clinics.

SC CTSI-Supported Research Interest Groups

The gut microbiome is recognized as an important organ that impacts health and disease. It is an area of intense research that has been identified by the NIH as high priority. Currently the NIH has over 300 active RFAs that solicit applications to understand the microbiome across intervention and the focus of many of the national and international meetings has recently become the microbiome. The Challenge of studying the gut microbiome stems from its complex bioinformatics requirement that many clinicians are unable to perform on their own and the experts in bioinformatics, proteomics, metagenomics, etc….may not have the clinical knowledge and expertise to understand the implications of the gut microbiome in health and disease. Therefore, it is imperative to build teams to tackle and understand the gut microbiome in a multidisciplinary approach.

Young adult (YA) cancer survivors include pediatric (diagnosed age 0-14) and adolescent and young adult cancer survivors (AYAs diagnosed age 15-39). Collectively, YA survivors experience numerous physiological and psychosocial challenges related to their developmental life stage. Typical medical problems resulting from cancer and its treatment, called late effects, may include persistence or development of congestive heart failure and other forms of cardiovascular disease, pulmonary fibrosis, musculoskeletal disabilities, infertility, and secondary malignancies, among other health issues. Further, young adult survivors experience significant emotional distress, social isolation, disrupted education, lower quality of life, and financial hardship, often resulting in delayed emergence as young adults and the well-recognized “failure to launch.” Research is needed to better understand the specific issues faced by YA survivors, and to develop effective mechanisms for the provision of supportive care for this age group

Recognizing this pressing need for research in this area, we have brought together researchers and clinicians to expand YA cancer survivorship research at USC to link and leverage existing clinical and academic resources. Our interdisciplinary expertise includes epidemiological, behavioral, health care services, clinical research, and clinical programs focused on this population. Current efforts are to form a structured, highly integrated, interdisciplinary research collaborative with the potential to secure new research funding, undertake studies of high impact, innovate clinical care, and substantially contribute to this important and emerging field.

Improving the quality and value of healthcare delivery is of major interest to healthcare organizations. While efforts to collect data about quality and costs have improved over time, many questions still remain around how to use these data to improve healthcare delivery. Audit and feedback, the process of showing providers their own performance (e.g. using a performance dashboard) is a strategy that has been successfully used in healthcare settings. The success of audit and feedback, however, is highly dependent on the implementation setting, and the underlying mechanisms for success remain largely unknown. A lack of involvement of theory in the design and evaluation of these strategies, which often requires the involvement of researchers from diverse fields, has led progress in this field to be slow.

On the other hand, substantial research to understand these underlying mechanisms exists across various non-medical fields including many sub-fields of psychology and human cognitive design. These fields provide various frameworks to understand how implementation of a performance dashboard could result in improvement. These theories offer insights into the design and evaluation of dashboards from both the human motivational as well as technological perspectives.

Based on the abovementioned theories, the involvement of end-users is of critical importance for successful design and implementation of a feedback system. Involvement of end-users mitigates the risk of creating an ineffective system that does not adequately meet users’ needs and also maintains motivation for improvement. In the healthcare setting, physicians and other healthcare professionals are the targeted end users. However, productive engagement of physicians, who are often deeply occupied with their clinical duties, is a key-challenge in quality improvement settings.

We are interested in building a multi-disciplinary team aiming to engage a diverse group of academics and clinicians to further the field of audit & feedback interventions at the unique intersection of medicine, science, technology, and operations. With key members from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, USC Center for Social and Economic Research, USC Marshall School of Business, and USC Keck School of Medicine we are designing a performance dashboard for the USC Department of Emergency Medicine, and evaluate mediators of effective audit and feedback interventions in this setting.

A major barrier to the implementation of evidence-based practices and integration of empirical evidence into practice is that research is often conducted without input from practitioners. This can result in interventions and findings that are difficult to implement in real word settings or have limited use for daily practice. To address these concerns, primary care providers have increasingly developed networks of practitioners and academics to develop research questions that are relevant to clinical practice, called practice-based research networks (PBRN). There are over 180 PBRNs that are registered nationally with AHRQ and they have conducted a great deal of valuable research for primary care settings.

Unfortunately, mental health providers have not developed these networks on the same scale, as fewer than 5% of PBRNs registered with AHRQ include mental health practitioners. In order to ensure that the field of mental health benefits from PBRNs, larger collaborations of practitioners and scientists are needed to help mental health professionals develop higher quality and more impactful research studies in conjunction with practitioners. We propose to start a collaboration among three mental health based PBRNs based in California, Colorado, and Ohio in order to improve the impact of research by these PBRNs. Clinician and academics participants in these networks will create a multidisciplinary team from psychiatry, psychology, and social work. We plan to use the collaborative time to conduct team building and information gathering to help the PBRNs collaboratively develop a grant proposal for submission to a federal funding agency on marijuana use and treatment by individuals with serious mental health issues.

It is still elusive how research team members can effectively leverage their disciplinary knowledge to develop innovative solutions to health care challenges, such as the opioid epidemic. Experts, policy makers and funders have called for research teams to develop transdisciplinary approaches to address this type of grand challenge. Transdisciplinary research is defined as efforts conducted by investigators from different disciplines working jointly to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem (Aboelela et al., 2007). Using a team science approach, the current study seeks to identify and test team building activities that may provide the substantive connection to activate team members’ discipline-specific contributions to three phases of research – 1) problem conceptualization, 2) research design and implementation, and 3) interpretation and translation of results. The proposed team building activities were tied to a current pilot study on building capacity in the emergency department (ED) to respond to the opioid epidemic. Findings from this study can inform early stage team building interventions to lead transdisciplinary research and build capacity in EDs to effectively address the needs of individuals suffering from opioid use disorders. 


  • To identify the vision, mission, and stakeholders for a Game-Based Health Research Institute
  • To identify gaps to fill in the current landscape of game-based health research in healthcare providers or health among patients and populations
  • To identify funding sources and strategies for obtaining funding along the 2-year continuum
  • The goal is to develop a centralized hospital-based nexus to attract researchers, developers, and eligible study subjects.

One in three children in the U.S. is estimated to have been victim of violence. There is a robust link between exposure to violence and increased likelihood of somatic symptoms including physical pain (e.g., headache, abdominal and back pain). Violence can be particularly devastating for youth from under-resourced communities, which most often include ethnic and racial minority groups that are often casualties of socioeconomic inequities. Latinos are the largest ethnic group in California (38.8%) and in the greater Los Angeles area where they represent approximately 49% of the population (US Census Bureau). Approximately 66% of the patients seen at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) are of Latino ethnicity ( Therefore, it is important to examine exposure to violence in the context of pain in Latino youth. 

The main objective is to develop a multidisciplinary collaboration among CHLA Pain Management providers and community-based researchers from Casa de Esperanza, and extend the invitation to Los Angeles community organizations focused on violence in Latino communities, and community pediatric health care providers.

The burden of skin disease in transplant patients has been substantiated by a growing body of literature. Due to their need for lifelong immunosuppression to prevent graft rejection, transplant patients are at risk for a variety of cutaneous complications including skin cancers and infections. Skin cancer represents the most common cancer overall in solid organ transplant recipients, with increased rates of at least 65-fold in squamous cell carcinoma, 10-fold increases in basal cell carcinoma, and 3-fold increased rates of melanoma in these patients. Additionally, skin cancers in organ transplant recipients tend to be more aggressive, with higher rates of metastasis and higher mortality compared to non-transplant patients. While skin cancer is known to be increased among white and older organ transplant recipients, skin cancers among non-white organ transplant recipients are not well characterized yet critical to understand for effective management of this underserved population.

The need for multidisciplinary medical teams to provide optimal care and skin cancer prevention education to organ transplant patients is well known, and its successful implementation at several major academic centers have demonstrated effectiveness in managing this complex patient population. We propose to build a multi-disciplinary team at USC to create a clinical center for enhancing the skin health of post-transplant patients.

Medical sciences have benefited from emerging open source web services and virtual technologies in recent years. These tools provide a common virtual platform for data collection, processing pipelines, and cross validation of research outcomes. Using these virtual services facilitates collaboration among remote sites and allows separate teams to reproduce study findings. Several large blueprint NIH grants followed this trend and opened their brain databases as well as their image processing pipelines, which enabled researchers with different backgrounds to test their clinical hypotheses more easily and collaboratively. However, many researchers are using common datasets and processing pipelines, assessing quality of the processed data and manual correction of the failures are existing challenges for those researchers. Several neurologists or radiologists are required to go through thousands of images, overlay processed data, browse each patient’s data, and manipulate the data to prepare them for their specific studies. It is a tedious and time-consuming task, which can take up to a year for a study with a medium sample size. This creates a major bottleneck in the experimental process. Remote access to processed data is a challenge due to large file sizes, lack of software support, and data protection policies. To address these challenges, we have developed a collaborative web service for quality control as well as virtual reality (VR) software for manual manipulation of neuroanatomical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data.

We aim to promote the aforementioned tools to reach a wider community of researchers who study brain structural MRI. We hope to recruit researchers, neurologists, and radiologists to use these platforms in their own circle of collaborations. We plan to bring together both neuroimaging experts as well as non-experts from other fields who can work together to expedite the progress in the field of neuroimaging research.

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