David Tulsky joins University of Delaware

David Tulsky joins University of Delaware

David Tulsky, an expert in outcomes assessment research and measurement of cognitive functioning in individuals with neurological impairment, has joined the faculty in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Delaware.

Tulsky, who was formerly Irving Geist Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, will provide support to a broad range of programs including the BADER Consortium and the Center for Translational Research ACCEL Program.
“David Tulsky is a very significant hire for the ACCEL program, the University of Delaware, and the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance for our partners in the biomedical community in Delaware,” said Kathleen Matt, dean of UD’s College of Health Sciences and executive director of the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance (DHSA).

“David’s expertise in outcomes research will bridge our academic and clinical institutions and will help facilitate translation of interdisciplinary research into diagnostics, evaluation, and interventions that maximize health outcomes in our community. “

Tulsky’s hiring by the Department of Physical Therapyis the first step toward the establishment of a Center for Assessment Research and Translation at UD.

“We want to change and improve the way outcomes measurement is being done in medicine and especially in rehabilitation,” Tulsky said. “The University of Delaware offers a fantastic opportunity to really build an entity across multiple colleges and departments.”

Stuart Binder-McLeod, director of the ACCEL Program, said Tulsky is a nationally recognized expert in the analysis of clinical outcomes data, particularly for underrepresented populations, including racial minorities and people with physical and neurological disabilities.

“We’re really excited to have him here at Delaware to provide assessment tools for a variety of our clinical and translational research programs. He’s also an incredible collaborator who has built partnerships all over the U.S. and is now developing global collaborations.”

Although Tulsky is new to the UD faculty, he has a longstanding connection to the BADER Consortium, also housed at the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.

Tulsky serves as director of the Rehabilitation Outcomes Measurement (ROM) Core for BADER, which was created in 2011 with a $19.7-million Department of Defense grant. BADER supports orthopedic research to help service members with limb loss or limb difference return to optimal function.

The consortium’s administrative office is located at UD, but the program funds orthopedic research projects across the country. Tulsky’s appointment means BADER’s ROM core also moves to UD.

Tulsky’s current duties for BADER involve working with principal investigators to recommend optimal outcome measures for their projects, providing training in the use of these measures, and developing new measurement platforms for research.

Among the BADER-funded projects Tulsky is currently working on is an outcomes toolbox that can be used to identify common data elements at multiple military treatment facilities. The hope is that by discerning information about outcomes among service members with limb loss and limb difference, medical personnel can develop effective ways to treat this unique population.

“There’s a lot of travel and networking involved, but it is really encouraging to see people building a consensus,” Tulsky said.

Tulsky’s addition to the UD staff increases the potential for integrating more outcome measures across other studies planned for the future, said BADER Consortium Director Steven Stanhope.

Tulsky also brings multiple grant awards with him, including an NIH U-01 on the Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) and a $2 million BADER-funded project.

Tulsky is also leading multi-site outcomes-related projects as a project principal investigator within the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model System programs and the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on improving measurement of medical rehabilitation outcomes, funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.

“We are thrilled David Tulsky has joined the University of Delaware and the IDeA network here,” said Stanhope, who also serves as the principal investigator for Delaware INBRE, which promotes biomedical research in the First State.

“For David to join us with his remarkable expertise means we will have a key person working with the National Institutes of Health and other agencies on how to establish outcome measures on a broad scale. That talent and resource will help create a nationwide focus here as Delaware establishes this capability.”

Historically, it has been difficult for orthopedic researchers to capture patient-care outcomes in the medical community, especially in clinically oriented research of this type. So when BADER was launched three years ago, Stanhope sought out someone who specialized in outcomes — and one name kept coming up.

“I asked colleagues, ‘Who’s the top person?’ and everyone said David Tulsky,” Stanhope said.

Dr. William Weintraub, founding director of the Center for Outcomes Research, part of the Value Institute at Christiana Care Health System, said Tulsky’s hire offers tremendous possibilities not just for collaboration but also for improving patient care.

In the past, individual physicians and clinical trials have looked at outcomes on a smaller scale, but until recently there has not been a push to look at health status and outcomes across larger groups. That approach offers the chance for physicians and scientists to better understand which approaches work – or don’t work – and why.

“I see him doing work both at the University of Delaware and at Christiana, bringing his approach as an outcomes-oriented psychologist to look at outcomes, rehabilitation and health care disparities,” said Weintraub, also the John H. Ammon Chair of Cardiology at Christiana Care.

Tulsky is joined at UD by Pam Kisala, a research scientist who has extensive expertise in conducting qualitative and quantitative research and in multi-site data coordination and collection.

She is a leading expert in the development and use of PROMIS and other patient-reported scales in research studies and in designing studies within the Assessment Center data platform that houses many of the NIH developed scales.

About David Tulsky

David Tulsky earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana and went on to complete master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In addition to his faculty appointment at NYU, Tulsky has been a professor at the University of Michigan. He has also been affiliated with the Kessler Foundation Research Center, the Rush Cancer Center, and the Psychological Corporation.

His research interests include assessment of medical outcomes and quality of life in people with spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, other physical and cognitive disabilities, and chronic disease.

He envisions the translation of outcomes research into clinical practice and views the integration of outcome measures into electronic medical records as a way to transform medical practice.

Tulsky is also an expert in the development and use of measures of cognitive functioning and hopes to improve traditional testing practices in the cognitive assessment of individuals with neurological conditions.

Tulsky was instrumental in validating and adapting the Patient Reported Outcome Measurement Information System (PROMIS) to individuals with disabilities. The PROMIS network is a cooperative group funded under the NIH Common Fund (formerly the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research Initiative) to re-engineer the clinical research enterprise by revolutionizing the way patient-reported outcome tools are selected and employed in research.

Specifically, PROMIS is designed to provide clinicians and researchers access to efficient, precise, valid, and responsive adult- and child-reported measures of health and well-being and contains measures that cover physical, mental, and social health.

Tulsky’s research has been funded by several institutes within the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

He is a member of the American Psychological Association, the International Neuropsychological Society, the International Society of Quality of Life, the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals, and the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Article by Diane Kukich and Kelly Bothum

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson