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Three projects win William & Mary/EVMS Collaborative Grants

The second round of Collaborative Grants have been awarded to three teams from William & Mary and Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Round two of the initiative to encourage joint research between the two institutions saw 12 teams submit proposals, said Jennifer Mellor, William & Mary’s point person for exploring research and educational collaboration between the university and EVMS. Her counterpart at the Norfolk medical school is C. Donald Combs, vice president and dean of the EVMS School of Health Professions.

Each of the three second-round projects received $20,000 in funding, Mellor added. As in the first round of projects, a main criterion for selection was the potential for the proposed project to attract and secure external funding. The first round of Collaborative Grants resulted in the funding of 10 projects in August. Mellor said that second-round projects were expected to be more substantive and require more resources than the first round projects, each of which received $10,000 in funding.

Mellor noted that the project, “Evaluation of an EEG-based Neurometric Battery for the Evaluation of Cognitive Decline in Patients at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease,” was funded in both the first and second rounds.

“The review committee commented on the fact that the collaborators used their first grant very well in terms of using it as seed money,” said Mellor, who is professor of economics and director of William & Mary’s Schroeder Center for Health Policy. “They also described a detailed plan for seeking federal funding as they go forward.”

Dennis Manos, William & Mary’s vice provost for research, said that the Research Review Committee picked the best from among a strong slate of proposed projects.

“I was very pleased with the quality of the proposals we received,” Manos said. “All of the proposals showed a lot of potential for raising tuition revenue, reducing costs or attracting external revenue. The ones we funded were particularly strong, in terms of enhancing the connection between the university and EVMS.”

In addition to Mellor, Manos and Combs, members of the Research Review Committee who unanimously selected the winning proposals included representatives from William & Mary, Sentara and EVMS.

Winning projects

Enhancing Selective Attention in Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum: Development of an Online Intervention

Principal Investigator: Janice Zeman, Dept. of Psychology, William & Mary

Co-Investigator 1: Maria Urbano, Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, EVMS

Co-Investigator 2: J.D. Ball, Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, EVMS

Co-Investigator 3: Josh Burk, Dept. of Psychology, William & Mary

Co-Investigator 4: Cheryl Dickter, Dept. of Psychology, William & Mary

The collaborators aim to develop an online test and exercise suite designed to enhance selective visual attention skills in adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum. By focusing on this age group, the project will address a major gap in assessing interventions to enhance academic performance by persons on the autism spectrum. The project will develop and use online sessions to both improve the diagnoses of individuals as well as to provide a medium for visual-attention training.

Evaluation of an EEG-based Neurometric Battery for the Evaluation of Cognitive Decline in Patients at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

Principal Investigator: Paul D. Kieffaber, Dept. of Psychology/Neuroscience Program, William & Mary

Co-Investigator: Hamid R. Okhravi, Dept. of Internal Medicine: Geriatrics, EVMS

This program focuses on using biomarkers in the form of measures of brain activity generated through electroencephalography (EEG) in the fight against age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The researchers will investigate an extremely novel neurometric protocol for identifying risk and vulnerability of patients as well as for tracking the onset, progress and severity of Alzheimer’s and similar mental disorders.


Rapid Cycle Innovation Training Grant in Healthcare Delivery Science and Health Services Research

Principal Investigator: Brent Ibata, Sentara Cardiovascular Research Institute; Cardiac Research and Education, EVMS

Co-Investigator 1: James Olver, Mason School of Business, William & Mary

Co-Investigator 2: Patric Lundberg, Dept. of Microbiology, EVMS

This initiative is a novel application of “rapid cycle innovation” to problems in the healthcare sector. The investigators will develop and beta test an educational program for teams of health care professionals from William & Mary, EVMS and Sentara Heart Hospital. The goal is to develop skills in collaborative problem solving and evidence-based quality improvement among members of at least 15 teams, which will then share expertise and outlook to facilitate improvements in health care delivery. 

The Collaborative Grants and related initiatives are funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia and Sentara Healthcare, which have respectively contributed $200,000 and $100,000. In addition to the research collaborations, faculty members of the two institutions meet for retreats and workshops. Mellor says the workshops and other collaborative and educational programming are slated to continue through 2017.