UAB fellow receives nearly $1 million in funding for palliative care study

Rachel Wells will lead a study aimed at improving care of underserved adults with advanced heart failure.
Written by: Erica Techo
Media contact: Hannah Echols

Rachel Wells headshotRachel Wells will lead a study aimed at improving care of underserved adults with advanced heart failure.
(Photo by: Lexi Coon)
University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing postdoctoral fellow Rachel Wells, Ph.D., R.N., has received a five-year, $995,155 K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute of Nursing Research. Wells will use the funds to study how to optimize early palliative care intervention for persons with advanced heart failure.

The award, given by NINR under the umbrella of the National Institutes of Health, supports postdoctoral fellows in research and is designed to provide a career pathway for them to move from a mentored postdoctoral position to an independent tenure-track faculty position. Wells will receive support in two phases: a two-year K99 phase in which she will focus mostly on research training, and a three-year R00 phase in which she will focus mostly on completing an optimization pilot.

“As we move the palliative care science forward, I have become interested in how we unpack what is in the ‘special sauce’ of palliative care, and optimization trials are one way to do that,” Wells said. “Having the opportunity to train and learn more about the intersection of optimization and health disparities is a wonderful opportunity and a critical next step for me to build the strong foundation necessary to become successful, independent clinical trialist.”

During the K99 phase, Wells will conduct interviews with patients, caregivers, clinicians in heart failure, palliative care and primary care, and lay navigators who help patients navigate the health care system to develop and tailor a telehealth behavioral intervention that will be delivered by phone. She will also complete extensive training in optimization and randomized clinical trials, health disparities research, and intervention development.

In the three-year R00 phase, she will lead an optimization pilot involving 40 older adults with advanced heart failure over a 24-week period to assess the acceptability, feasibility and potential benefits of each component of the new intervention.

Wells is a two-time graduate of the UAB School of Nursing, earning her Master of Science degree in nursing in 2009 and her Doctor of Philosophy degree in nursing in 2019.

Read more about Wells’ study here.