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GSBS student Deborah Mack recognized for geriatrics research

American Geriatrics Society Scientist-in-Training Research Award recognizes outstanding work on impact of statins among nursing home residents

By Kylee Denesha

UMass Medical School Communications

May 19, 2020
Deborah Mack

Deborah Mack, a PhD student in the Clinical & Population Health Research Program in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences has received the 2020 American Geriatrics Society Scientist-in-Training Research Award. She received the award for her outstanding abstract, submitted to the 2020 AGS Annual Meeting.

“My interest in gerontology and epidemiology started when I was young, and I always felt it was an underserved population,” Mack said. “In high school, I became passionate about the policy aspect after watching what my grandfather went through with Medicare and not being able to get services covered. That’s when my interest in older adults came to fruition.”

Mack’s abstract looked at geographic variation in statin use among nursing home residents with life-limiting illnesses. She worked alongside her mentor, Kate Lapane, PhD, professor of population & quantitative health sciences.

The study used a cross-sectional observational design with data from nursing homes linked to Medicare administrative claims. Mack and Dr. Lapane’s research suggests extensive geographic variation in statin prescribing across hospital referral regions in the U.S., especially for people over the age of 75. 

They concluded that these inconsistencies could lead to gaps and discrepancies in care “without evidential basis of benefit among clinically complex older adults near the end of life.”

“We looked at nursing homes with people with life-limiting illness because we agreed that this is a population that likely won’t benefit from statins,” Mack said. “It’s not so much what medical conditions someone has, it’s more based on the region someone is living in. You have to wonder why there is so much variation, and there shouldn’t be. You’d think the standard protocols should be pretty similar across the board.”

Mack's research is an outgrowth of the pioneering work of Jennifer Tjia, MD, associate professor of population & quantitative health sciences, on medication deprescribing among older adults with advanced illness. Dr. Tjia is part of Mack's study team.

The 2020 AGS Annual Meeting Award Ceremony was supposed to take place in May in Long Beach, California. Due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, the event was cancelled.

Mack is focused on research to inform and guide policy decisions that lead to more cost-effective and quality care for the elderly. 

“My ultimate goal in my work is to really change the ways we approach care for older people,” she said. “In my future, I’m hoping to continue doing research on the aging population, and help make policy recommendations.”

Her abstract has been published in the 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting supplement.

Mack said she will be presented her award at the next year’s conference in Chicago.