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UMass Chan postdoc recognized by the American Geriatrics Society

  Camilla Pimentel, PhD
  Camilla Pimentel, PhD

Camilla Pimentel, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at UMass Medical School, was recently honored by the American Geriatrics Society with its Scientist-in-Training Research Award for a study about how the Medicare Part D drug benefit affected accessibility of pain medication for cancer patients in nursing homes.

Dr. Pimentel found that the implementation of the federal drug benefit policy had unintended effects on opioid use among nursing home residents with cancer who experience pain.

“It was a great honor to be able to share my work,” Pimentel said. “The research that I’m doing is incredibly important to me, so to hear that others are taking an interest in my work, I’m almost in disbelief. When organizations like the American Geriatric Society decide to highlight my work, it makes it that much more meaningful.”

Pimentel found that after the initial implementation of Medicare Part D in 2006, the usage rate of fentanyl patches and other strong opioids was reduced. During the subsequent 18 months, there continued to be a decrease in the use of fentanyl patches, although her research suggests that substitutions were possibly made. In May, Pimentel presented her research during the society’s annual meeting.

Based on her review, Pimentel recommends that Medicare Part D’s coverage of pain medication and alternative opioid medication should be considered for a vulnerable population, such as nursing home residents with cancer, given the medically supervised environment.

“I specifically focused on prescription drug coverage, but I think this relates to all national health policies: There are intended and unintended consequences and those need to be carefully considered before implementation of policies and continuously assessed during implementation,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel earned her PhD from UMMS on May 31 and is continuing at the medical school as one of three inaugural postdocs in an National Cancer Institute-funded training program called Prevention and Control Cancer: Post-doctoral Training in Implementation Science (PRACCTIS). Stephenie Lemon, PhD, associate professor of medicine, and Thomas Houston, MD, professor of quantitative health sciences, are the fellowship directors. Pimentel’s mentored research training will be through the Bedford VA Medical Center, where she will work with Christine Hartmann, PhD, a research assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health and research health scientist at the Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research at the Bedford VA, and participate in research projects that seek to improve resident-centered care in VA nursing homes. 

Pimentel has authored more than 10 articles for peer-reviewed journals, most recently publishing a paper in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on the use of atypical antipsychotics in nursing homes and pharmaceutical marketing.