Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Simon Laboratory

Women's Health

Current Projects


Texting for Diabetes Success Project

Low-income pregnant women in the Chicago area are at high risk for obesity or diabetes. The addition of a disease in pregnancy amplifies the requirements for optimal self-care during pregnancy. This load of information may hinder compliance and pregnancy success, particularly for women with additional socioeconomic barriers to self-care. This project develops and evaluates a patient centered text-based educational platform to provide supportive and educational messages to diabetic women receiving prenatal care in the Prentice Ambulatory Care Clinic, with the goal of increasing diabetes self-efficacy, self-management capacity, and engagement with care. Funding support is provided by the Evergreen Foundation/Pritzker Foundation.

LitCog in Pregnancy Study

Cognitive function and health literacy/numeracy are aspects of decision-making that influence health behaviors and health outcomes. Pregnant women in particular, have unique requirements for health learning and behavior changes, as they face rapidly escalating cognitive demands during their pregnancy. The objective of this study is to investigate the health literacy and cognitive function domains of decision-making in pregnant women, and to assess how these factors relate to pregnancy outcomes. Ultimately, this exploratory study seeks to improve the quality and efficacy of prenatal care by developing a better understanding of the role of cognitive skills and functioning among pregnant patients. Funding support is provided by the Evergreen Foundation/Pritzker Foundation.

Chronic Disease

Collaborative Breast Cancer Care Process Improvement for the Medically Underserved

African American women are more likely to die of breast cancer compared with White women. Data suggests that differential quality of breast health care between the two groups plays a role in this disparity. Delivery system interventions that improve quality of care is a logical strategy for reducing racial/ethnic disparities in breast cancer outcomes. This project provides educational workshops to staff working at Chicago area breast imaging and breast cancer care sites with a focus on sites that provide care for underserved populations. The workshops address identified deficits in the process of care that directly address quality improvement, with the overall goal of improving the process of breast cancer care in facilities caring for medically underserved African American and Hispanic women throughout Chicago, and the creation of workshop content that can be used by other sites and geographic areas. Funding support is provided by the Komen Foundation.

Personalizing Patients Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment and Supportive Care Plans

In the United States there are an estimated 192,370 new cases of female breast cancer each year, and an estimated 40,170 deaths. This project’s overall goal is to improve quality, appropriateness, and timeliness of delivery of comprehensive care to metastatic breast cancer patients in a large integrated health system by implementing a personalized, patient-centric care planning and coordination model, and disseminating implementation results. Funding support is provided by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and Pfizer.

Improving Low Income Women’s Health Care at Community Health Centers

Community Primary Care practice sites often lack the detailed guideline knowledge beyond general risk populations, and the methods and protocols, to appropriately deliver the needed spectrum of care. As a result, there are glaring gaps in patient care in the form of low cancer screening rates as well as ineffective screening and diagnostic processes that are arduous for patients and providers. As a result, patient’s that begin the screening process may not complete the diagnostic process to resolution, causing a loss to follow up. There is a dire need to improve care delivery in this area in a systemic sustainable manner that leverages the strengths of community practices while taking advantage of available academic collaborations to benefit underserved patients and to raise the level of care for all patients. This project seeks to improve care delivery within Northwestern Medicine, Community Health Clinic, Near North and Erie Family Health by implementing a 4R Care Delivery Model (4R = Right information and Right Treatment to the Right Patient at the Right Time) intervention. Funding support is provided by the Pritzker Family Foundation.

Preventive Health

Understanding and Enhancing Women with Disabilities’ Use of Cancer Screening

This mixed methods study aims to improve knowledge, attitudes towards, and awareness of cancer screening amongst women with disabilities in Chicago. Funding support is provided by the American Cancer Society of Illinois (PI: Susan Magasi, PhD).

Engaging the Community to Assess Contraceptive Behavior in Latina Adolescents and Young Adults

There are few studies regarding Latinas’ reproductive health knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Using qualitative and quantitative approaches, this study systematically explores contraceptive use behaviors among young Latinas aged 15-24. Funding support is provided by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals – Research Fellowship in Contraceptive Counseling.

Completed Projects

4R for Guideline Indicated BRCA Genetic Assessment of Breast Center Patients

Many breast cancer patients with a positive family history receive information about BRCA testing at a time point that does not allow them to incorporate BRCA testing results into their surgical decision-making. This project delivers BRCA testing information to patients shortly after they receive their breast cancer diagnosis and refers patients to genetic counseling – all in ample time to be able to use the test results in making their surgical decision. The study examines if providing patients who have indicated a genetic/familial risk, with timely information and opportunity to access genetic counseling prior to their surgical decision, will shift BRCA testing to before definitive breast cancer surgery and if it impacts surgical decisions. The study also identified barriers to this intervention from the perspective of patients, physicians, nurses, and genetic counselors. Funding support is provided by the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation.

A REAL TIME Assessment of Barriers to Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment

Understanding why so many women with low income do not complete follow-up for an abnormal pap smear or mammogram or treatment for cervical or breast cancer requires intimate knowledge of the barriers to obtaining such services and care. This study prospectively explored experiences of patients diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer from diagnosis to treatment in real time using an ethnographic approach.