July 3, 2009
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HIT Update: Primary Care Research Institute

The Primary Care Research Institute at the UNT Health Science Center is addressing important health issues—including cancer, cardiovascular disease and mental health-- through primary care and public health research and education. PCRI, which includes NorTex (The North Texas Primary Care Practice-Based Research Network) and the Primary Care Clinical Research Fellowship, has several ongoing research projects and is hosting next month’s Distinguished Speaker Series presentation on health equity.

Distinguished Speaker Series

  • The PCRI will host the next Distinguished Speaker Series presentation on July 23. George Rust, MD, MPH, FAAFP, FACPM, will talk about “Real-World Research to Achieve Optimal and Equitable Health Outcomes for All.” Rust is the director of the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. The presentation is at 5:30 pm in Luibel Hall. Register online with PACE.

Research Updates:

  • With the North Texas Healthy Heart Study (NTHH), PCRI is assessing the relationship of  psychosocial factors and cardiovascular physiologic markers to better understand potential contributors to cardiovascular health disparities. Two-year prospective data are being collected on 571 enrolled participants. NTHH, which started in 2006, is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the Texas Center for Health Disparities. Roberto Cardarelli, DO (TCOM ’01), MPH (SPH ’01), associate professor of Family Medicine, is the principal investigator for the project.
  • Final data collection is underway for the Cancer Screening Initiative Project, which studies the impact of an educational DVD for primary care physicians on cancer screening practices. Cardarelli is also principal investigator for this study, which is funded by the Moncrief Cancer Foundation in collaboration with UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Moncrief Cancer Resources.
  • The Mental Health Screening and Treatment Initiative (MHSTI) for the Tarrant County Probationer Population is a collaborative study among NorTex, the Tarrant County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, and Texas Wesleyan University. MHSTI, which provides routine mental health screenings for probationers using an innovative audio-visual computer system, was recently funded through a grant from the Meadows Foundation and a private donation from the Byrne Foundation. Christopher Mann, DO (TCOM ’86), and Cardarelli are principal investigators for this project.
  • The Tachygraphic Color-Organized Medication System Study is designed to evaluate and refine a system of color-specific symbols to place on medication bottles to improve the accuracy and rapid identification of prescribed medications. The study is funded through a grant from the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation. Mann is the principal investigator on the project.
  • The NorTex Needs Assessment, funded by the Pfizer Medical Education Group, officially ended on March 31, providing valuable information on NorTex physicians’ performance in cardiovascular care, cancer screening, immunizations and pediatric care, as well as the best ways to conduct research with NorTex physician members.


  • Three dual degree (DO/MS) students are graduating from PCRI’s Primary Care Clinical Research Fellowship this summer. Kelly Sprawls will complete a primary care internal medicine residency at Harvard University at Cambridge. Billy Effinger will complete a traditional internship at Westchester General Hospital in Miami.  Michael Dunn will complete a family medicine residency at Christus Spohn Health Systems in Corpus Christi. Under the fellowship, TCOM students enroll in a competitive dual degree program offering a MS degree in primary care clinical research. PCRI also now offers fellowships in primary care clinical research for students earning dual DO/PhD degrees.


  • The PCRI hosted its first NorTex Convocation of Practices on April 25. The NorTex Convocation of Practices will serve as a yearly forum for PCRI/NorTex to give back to collaborators and the community.  Presentations on current and past NorTex projects were provided to academic and private practice physicians as well as non-physician clinical researchers.  NorTex research study participants also attended a mini health fair. 

For more information, visit the PCRI Web site. The PCRI is one of 12 Health Institutes of Texas (HIT) at the UNT Health Science Center.  HIT is designed to speed research from the bench to the bedside to create a healthier and more productive Texas. Updates on each of the 12 HIT centers and institutes will be featured in future issues of Campus Connection.

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