July 17, 2019

Expert in advance care planning named Director of Regenstrief’s Center for Aging Research

Expert in advance care planning named Director of Regenstrief’s Center for Aging Research

Susan Hickman, Ph.D., has been selected to lead the Indiana University Center for Aging Research at the Regenstrief Institute. She will be the second director in the center’s history.

Dr. Hickman is a clinical geropsychologist focused on optimizing the quality of life for older adults through improved decision-making and communication about treatment preferences. Much of her work is in advance care planning, helping people to make decisions about the care they receive when they are not able to speak for themselves.

She is nationally recognized for her work with the POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Program, designed to help ensure that patients’ end-of-life treatment preferences are known and honored. She has spent nearly two decades studying the model’s effects on end of life care, and her research findings are used across the country to support programs based on the POLST model. She also co-chaired the coalition that championed the development of Indiana’s version of the POLST program, called the Indiana POST form (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment), which is now implemented across the state.

Dr. Hickman serves as principal investigator as well as co-investigator on multiple externally funded projects related to advance care planning in the nursing home setting. In a current grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research and Retirement Research Foundation, she is exploring the quality of advance care planning decision-making for nursing home residents. She is also co-principal investigator on the National Institute on Aging APPROACHES clinical trial, which aims to improve care by integrating advance care planning into the day-to-day workflow of a nursing home.

“Dr. Hickman’s tireless work on ways to protect patients’ wishes for their end-of-life care has transformed care and made a difference in countless lives. That dedication and her exceptional track record of research accomplishment make her an ideal leader for the Center for Aging Research,” said Peter Embí, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Regenstrief Institute. “She will help lead our talented faculty in work that improves the lives of older adults.”

Dr. Hickman is a professor in the Indiana University School of Nursing. She is also a co-director of the IUPUI RESPECT (Research in Palliative and End-of Life Communicating and Training) Signature Center, faculty in the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, and Senior Affiliate Faculty in the IU Health Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics. In addition to her current roles, she will be a professor at the IU School of Medicine and hold the Cornelius and Yvonne Pettinga Chair in Aging Research.

“Dr. Hickman is both a scholar and leader whose research has advanced policy and enhanced quality of care for older people. She is well-prepared to lead the Regenstrief’s Center for Aging Research in focusing on important problems and generating impactful results,” said Robin Newhouse, Ph.D., R.N., dean of Indiana University School of Nursing.

“Aging is an inevitable part of life, yet our health care system struggles to provide high quality care for older adults. It is essential we use evidence to guide us in improving quality and efficiency of healthcare, and Center for Aging Research faculty have a strong tradition of impactful research on a wide array of topics critical to the health and well-being of geriatric patients,” said Dr. Hickman. “I look forward to building on this impressive history of success.”

“I am delighted that Dr. Hickman was selected to be the next director of the Center for Aging Research. She is an outstanding scientist and leader,” said Greg Sachs, M.D., a research scientist in the Center for Aging Research and the division chief of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, IU School of Medicine.  “I have worked closely with her, both on grants and through the RESPECT Center. Her skills and experience have been a tremendous asset in our work together and will be a boon to Regenstrief as a whole and its partner organizations.”

“As Regenstrief enters its 50th year, the domain of aging is as crucial as ever,” continued Dr. Embí. “As the U.S. population continues to grow older and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease exert a major toll on our population, the accomplishments of the Center for Aging Research will be vital to providing solutions for older adults and their families.”

Dr. Hickman is succeeding the center’s founding director, Christopher Callahan, M.D., and Kathleen Unroe, M.D., MHA, who served as the center’s interim director over the past year.

Dr. Hickman holds a B.A. in psychology from Wellesley College and a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship in geropsychology at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oregon and holds a certificate in healthcare ethics from the University of Washington.

  • Susan Hickman, PhD

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