Duncan Family Institute Provides Tools to Compete for CPRIT Funding

The Duncan Family Institute investments in establishing novel research infrastructure continues to provide scientists the tools they need to compete for funding for their research ideas and conduct new studies of interventions to bring evidence-based programs to the public, ultimately helping to “improve the health of Texans.”

Dr. Ludmila Cofta-Woerpel, e-Health Technology Co-director, has recently been awarded Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas funding for her project “Application of Multi-modal Professional Education Platform to Facilitate Physician Tobacco Counseling for Smokers”. The goal of this project is to improve the delivery of tobacco cessation treatment by primary care physicians. Tobacco use remains a significant risk factor for cancer and is responsible for 87% of all lung cancer cases and 30% of all deaths from cancer.  Not only is tobacco use implicated in the development of more than eight types of cancer, it is also recognized as a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other lung diseases such as emphysema and asthma.  Yet many physicians are reluctant to discuss tobacco use with their patients.

The specific aims of this project are to improve physicians’ tobacco-related knowledge, perceived ability, confidence, intention and practice behaviors related to the 5As model of tobacco counseling.  Physician barriers to treating tobacco addiction among patients are addressed by facilitating referral to the Texas State Quitline and offering tobacco education, both through traditional lectures and through innovative methods where the use of actors (standardized patients) or computer characters (virtual patients) allows the physicians to learn and practice how to best help smokers quit during a short office visit.

e-Health Technology, a resource of the Duncan Family Institute, will develop and maintain interactive data collection instruments and contribute to the development of virtual patients. Physicians will receive tobacco education through the website available via MD Anderson Professional Oncology Education web portal as well as via the Tobacco Outreach Education Program website. They will be training in an innovative virtual patient environment where physician-patient simulations will mimic actual clinical sessions. User data will be collected through the web-based questionnaires to assess knowledge and evaluate practice behaviors. Participating physicians will learn to identify and assist every smoking patient they see, and to refer these patients to the Quitline for further assistance.

The Center for Community-Engaged Translational Research (CCETR), another Duncan Family Institute resource, provided an environmental assessment to identify high priority counties in Texas – those with high tobacco use rates, high lung cancer incidence, high cancer mortality rates, and limited health services. CCETR then introduced Dr. Cofta-Woerpel to regional tobacco coordinators at the Texas Department of State Health Services, and facilitated discussions which culminated in the coordinators’ agreement to promote the project through their provider networks and tobacco coalition contacts. CCETR also facilitated discussion and garnered collaboration and support from the Texas Tobacco Quitline. CCETR will continue to serve as liaison between the project and the regional tobacco coordinators, and will support physician recruitment through communications, training and resources.