Robyn Stone, DrPH (Photo: LeadingAge)

LeadingAge Senior Vice President of Research Robyn Stone, DrPH, recently took some time to discuss with Senior Editor Lois A. Bowers the new partnership between LeadingAge and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston to create the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston, which she will co-direct with Marc Cohen, Ph.D., leader of long-term services and supports research at the Gerontology Institute.

Q: First of all, does this mean that there is no such thing as the LeadingAge Center for Applied Research anymore?

A: Yes. We are in the process of getting everybody to start using LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston as the formal title. That’s a mouthful, so it probably will get reduced at some point, but I don’t think the title is as important as the fact that we’ll still be here at LeadingAge.

The partnership is virtual and builds on our collective skills, expertise and knowledge. It strengthens our footprint in trying to do applied research that’s translational.

Q: How did the new center come about?

A: It’s been in the works for about a year, having evolved through a series of conversations that began with Len Fishman.

Len was the CEO of LeadingAge in the late 1990s and now is the director of the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston, which is the overarching entity at UMass within which this center, with Marc Cohen at its head, has been established. Len and I have a long history together. When he was at LeadingAge, he encouraged me to come and start an applied research group.

At UMass, Len was working with Community Catalyst, a consumer advocacy organization that had a legacy grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies to support a center that was focused on applied research that would influence policy around LTSS. As we discussed the evolution of that center, it occurred to Len and me that maybe there would be a way to think about how we brought UMass Boston and their academic orientation together with our group to form one larger group that would focus on LTSS very broadly.

Community Catalyst has quite a few state affiliates or folks out in the fields who are working on a number of consumer-oriented issues around health. We’ve worked with them before, but now our relationship is becoming more formalized.

Q: Where do things stand with the center?

A: Our members have been very excited about it, we’ve received some good feedback and the external research community also has been really excited about it.

It’s a work in progress. It’s not a financial merger but a joint venture of staff and philosophy and goals. It’s an interesting experiment.

We’ve set up a steering committee. We had a retreat in Boston where we brought both of our staffs together to start thinking about joint cultures and joint projects and that kind of thing. We’re working on a new joint website. It will include an interview with Marc Cohen and me talking about the merger and how it benefits each of our institutions.

The focus here is on bringing our groups together to do joint applied research work, then aggressively trying to influence the policy process. We will be doing more work jointly in terms of getting money for projects.

We’re exploring a couple of projects around home care — trying to understand the future of the home care evolution in terms of the different business models and what that means for the workplace and the workforce — and we’re also looking at housing with services in Massachusetts. We’re also looking at issues around culture change and quality improvement in nursing homes because we have some joint interests in that area. Then, of course, the whole area of LTSS financing. Marc Cohen has tremendous expertise in that area and actually was working with LeadingAge on some of those issues even before he moved over to UMass Boston.

The relationship and the partnership is going to grow as we get more joint projects together. That’s one of our major aims.

LeadingAge has two administrative people and seven researchers as part of the center. We now are fellows at UMass Boston, and we’re going to be doing some adjunct teaching there. We now have full access to a lot of university resources, including the library, which extends our reach in terms of getting access to materials.

We’re also hoping to have opportunities for graduate students to do internships here, to give them more experience in the applied environment.

Those kinds of things don’t typically happen when you’re simply partnering with a university on a particular project.