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Levkoff STwo College of Social Work faculty have been recognized recently for their research contributions. The annual Breakthrough Faculty Awards are presented by the Office of the Vice President for Research at USC. Winners are recognized in university publications and at an awards dinner in the spring. This year, Dr. Sue Levkoff was one of the recipients of the Breakthrough Leadership in Research award, and Dr. Christina Andrews was named a Breakthrough Star. These distinct honors are awarded to senior faculty and early-career faculty, respectively.

Levkoff is currently balancing a variety of research projects, but high on her agenda is a joint venture with researchers in the College of Pharmacy that aims “to develop a mobile health intervention to connect pharmacists with patients,” focusing on older African-Americans with HIV. The system would alert patients when they have missed a dose. Another current project with the College of Nursing sees Levkoff working to reduce re-hospitalizations of older African-Americans with heart failure.

As the SeniorSMART Center of Economic Excellence Endowed Chair, Levkoff works on the development of technologies, services, and environments that assist older adults in managing their health, enabling them to age in place, the preferred setting for most older adults. Levkoff’s research is concerned with reducing health disparities across diverse populations, and this allows her to work in interdisciplinary teams of researchers from various disciplines, including computer sciences and engineering, nursing, and pharmacy. The scale of her research means that she has many opportunities to model research praxis for many junior faculty and graduate students.

The Breakthrough award means a lot to Levkoff because “at this point in my career, it’s all about enabling the next generation,” something she feels very fortunate to do. "What I find is so unique here at USC is the enthusiasm of faculty from all across the university to collaborate together on research,” she says. "We all are enriched by working together and learn from each other — it’s just been a wonderful opportunity."

Andrews CAndrews said that receiving a Breakthrough award was “an absolute honor,” reflecting that “it felt good to see that the work I’m doing is valued by the university.” Andrews is currently researching the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the quality and accessibility of drug abuse treatment. Andrews explains this project as “trying to understand how things like the Medicaid expansion and the creation of the health insurance exchanges, as well as new incentives to better integrate substance abuse treatment with mainstream medical care, have affected how likely people are to get substance abuse treatment,” while also looking at the quality of that treatment.

Andrews is also a recipient of a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award, which has enabled her to study econometrics with a mentor in the Arnold School of Public Health. This research project focuses on the “Medicaid health home,” which Andrews describes as “a model of coordinated care for people with complex chronic conditions.” Andrews is studying the states that have decided to implement the health home program to see if it is cost-effective.

Andrews is grateful for the abundance of research activity within the CoSW: “I really like that I work alongside colleagues who are really actively engaged in research and have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of them.” She notes that faculty cheer each other on and support one another’s work; Levkoff even met her on a Saturday afternoon to review a grant application.

The generosity and camaraderie of the faculty ensures that Andrews and Levkoff won’t be the last Breakthrough scholars from the CoSW. This recognition of their hard work by the university community shows that the favorable research climate of the CoSW is encouraging scholars at every stage.

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