Building upon the scientific infrastructure created by the initial OPAL Center’s Methods Core, in this renewal, the Methods Core will continue to be a source of innovative research momentum focusing on improving treatment and services for people living with schizophrenia across the lifespan. Through the synergistic combination of one-on-one consultations, research methods seminars, training workshops, and cross-unit meetings, the Methods Core is designed to support OPAL’s research projects to optimize the effectiveness of treatments and services in real-world clinical settings and examine implementation issues (e.g., feasibility, acceptability) critical for enhancing readiness for broad deployment. The Methods Core will pursue the following specific aims:
Aim 1. Cultivate innovative research on treatments and services for schizophrenia that optimizes their effectiveness while reducing healthcare disparities in real-world clinical settings. Cross project methods which will be developed and supported include: causal mechanistic modeling for translational research, a health equity framework, and integration of cognitive health into medical and mental health services.
Aim 2. Support the work of OPAL signature and exploratory projects and pilot studies by offering perspectives and skills from multiple disciplines, and offer ideas and assistance to ensure productive use of OPAL resources. The Methods Core will include two new units – 1) cognitive health and 2) ethnoracial inequities and social determinants – and five already-established units from the ongoing OPAL methods core: 3) data science (i.e. research design, causal and predictive modeling, data management); 4) qualitative methods; 5) clinical assessment and training; 6) technology/mHealth; and 7) ethics and human subjects. The Methods Core will respond to requests from the Administrative Core, especially with regard to evaluation of Center activities, or when the Administrative Core needs direction in solicitation or review of pilot study proposals.
Aim 3. Challenge students and early stage investigators to build skills and experience in critically needed transdisciplinary areas of study, and provide on-going feedback on their work and career trajectories.
Data Science Unit
Data science lives and thrives at the intersection of biostatistical knowledge, computer programming and databasing of complex systems data, and subject matter knowledge. The Data Science Unit comprises leading biostatisticians and database experts with extensive experience working closely with psychiatrists and psychiatric epidemiologists to address the OPAL Center’s Specific Aims. In addition to developing innovative causal modeling methods to advance research identifying malleable targets of interventions for SZ in real-world clinical settings, the Data Science Unit supports the OPAL Center with expertise in statistical analyses and measurement and provides centralized data management services.
Qualitative Methods Unit
OPAL continues to use qualitative methods to develop, adapt, and refine interventions that are well-suited to real-world clinical settings. The Qualitative Methods Unit continues to provide leadership, supervision, and training in rigorous and relevant qualitative methods to the Center’s Signature Project, three exploratory projects, and future pilot studies.
EthnoRacial Inequities and Social Determinants Unit (ERISDU)
To better identify and address healthcare disparities affecting BIPOC groups, in this renewal we develop and implement the ERISDU in our OPAL Methods Core. This unit provides expertise and consultation to our major research projects and pilot projects. It helps investigators focus on how ethnoracial inequities in psychiatric practice, and the social determinants that drive them, are factored into the research approach. It promotes ethnoracial equity in the treatment of people with SZ and increase personalization of treatment by incorporating social determinants into our intervention models.
- Roberto Lewis-Fernandez, MD, Co-Investigator (Ethnoracial Inequities and Social Determinants Unit Head)
- Deidre Anglin, PhD, Co-Investigator
Cognitive Health Unit
Cognitive health is a major factor in ensuring the quality of life and maximal independence of adults in all phases of SZ (as described in Aim 1c). The Cognitive Health Unit provides expertise and consultation to OPAL investigators and trainees about intervention and evaluation approaches to promote cognitive health in people with SZ.
Mobile Health and Technology Unit
Novel technologies including mobile health (mHealth) offer great potential for innovation in the treatment of people schizophrenia and for research. The Mobile Health and Technology Unit (MHTU) will: 1) guide the use of mobile technology for its critical role in Exploratory Project 3; and 2) Promote the leveraging of new technologies and provide expertise and consultation to all OPAL investigators and trainees regarding development of additional pilot studies employing mHealth technologies.
- David Kimhy, PhD, Co-Investigator (Mobile Health/Technology Unit Unit Head)
- Linda Valeri, PhD, Statistician
Clinical Assessment Unit
The Clinical Assessment Unit (CAU) provides centralized clinical assessment services. The CAU oversees the training, reliability, and quality control for all diagnostic and clinical assessment components of the OPAL Center.
- David Kimhy, PhD, Co-Investigator (Clinical Assessment Unit Head)
Ethics and Human Subjects Unit
The Ethics and Human Subjects Unit of the Methods core supports each OPAL project to ensure that all OPAL personnel receive required training in the Responsible Conduct of Research and that all research conducted by OPAL fulfills the highest regulatory and ethical standards.
- David Strauss, MD, Consultant (Ethics/Human Subjects Unit Head)