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Susan E. Hickman, PhD

Susan E. Hickman, PhD

  • Director and research scientist, IU Center for Aging Research, Regenstrief Institute
  • Cornelius and Yvonne Pettinga Professor of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine
  • Professor, Indiana University School of Nursing
  • Co-director, IUPUI Research in Palliative and End-of-Life Communicating and Training (RESPECT) Signature Center

Dr. Susan Hickman is a clinical geropsychologist focused on optimizing the quality of life for older adults through improved decision-making and communication about treatment preferences. Her area of expertise is in palliative care and advance care planning.

She is nationally recognized for her work to help ensure that patients’ end-of-life treatment preferences are known and honored as well as for her work translating research into policy. Dr. Hickman is a founding member of the National POLST Paradigm as well as current Chair of the National POLST Research and Quality Assurance Committee. She has spent nearly two decades studying the effect of the POLST model on end of life care and her research findings are used to support programs based on the POLST model across the country. In Indiana, she led the successful campaign to pass legislation authorizing the creation of Indiana’s version of the POLST form.

Dr. Hickman serves as principal investigator as well as co-investigator on multiple externally funded projects related to advance care planning for older adults, primarily in the nursing facility setting. Projects include a study funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research and Retirement Research Foundation to determine how well advance care planning documentation reflects current, values-based treatment preferences. She is co-principal investigator on a National Institute on Aging trial of an advance care planning training program that will be evaluated in 180 nursing facilities across the country. Dr. Hickman is also co-investigator on several studies led by CAR investigators, including the OPTIMISTIC nursing home demonstration project, a study of POLST facilitation in the community, and palliative care for persons with moderate to severe dementia.

“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 the quality and efficiency of healthcare.”