Research Overview

The world-class research faculty in the Division of General Internal Medicine are experts in their fields, committed to studying health problems that affect the Bronx communities in which we work and those of global concern. We strive to conduct research that is helpful for and important to our patients, amplifies patient voices, and engages community members as partners. Our research is funded primarily by the National Institutes of Health and additionally by other government agencies and foundations. Our researchers work in collaborative teams to bring multiple perspectives and skillsets together and to promote learning among all members of the team.

The major DGIM research programs address:

Substance Use and Health of People Who Use Drugs

Researchers in the Division of General Internal Medicine have a longstanding commitment to advancing the health of people who use drugs through innovative research. Our projects include studies led by Dr. Aaron Fox, Dr. Shadi Nahvi, Dr. Benjamin Hayes, and Dr. Andrea Jakubowski about treatments for opioid use disorder, studies by Dr. Shadi Nahvi to help people who use drugs to stop or reduce commercial tobacco use, and studies led by Dr. Brianna Norton to improve access to treatment for Hepatitis C infection. Dr. Joanna Starrels and other researchers in the IMPOWR-ME Research Center study treatments that meet people with chronic pain and opioid use disorder where they are. Dr. Tiffany Lu and Dr. Laila Khalid are studying care innovations and treatment outcomes in primary care based addiction treatment. Dr. Andrea Jakubowski, Dr. Kristine Torres-Lockhart and others are studying the impact of an Addiction Medicine Consult for hospitalized patients.

HIV Treatment and Prevention and other infectious diseases

Our researchers have large programs of research locally and internationally, to understand prevention and treatment of HIV and how to improve the lives of people living with HIV (PLWH). Dr. Kathy Anastos, Dr. Anjali Sharma, and Dr. David Hanna (Department of Epidemiology and Population Health) lead the longstanding New York City site of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS)/Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) Combined Cohort Study to understand the progression and impact of HIV-related comorbidities. Dr. Marcel Yotebieng, Dr. Kathy Anastos, Dr. Jonathan Ross, and Dr. Natalia Zotova study strategies to improve a range of health outcomes for PLWH in Central Africa including access to care and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Dr. James Brust and Dr. Marcel Yotebieng study treatment of HIV and TB coinfection in Sub-Saharan Africa. In collaboration with Dr. Anjali Sharma also collaborates with colleagues in Psychiatry and Neuroscience to understand mechanisms of depression and neurocognition in PLWH. Dr. Viraj Patel studies HIV testing and implementation of PrEP in the US and India and in Central Africa together with Dr. Jonathan Ross and Dr. Natalia Zotova. Dr. Matthew Akiyama studies HIV and viral hepatitis prevention among people who inject drugs in East Africa.

Health Equity and Access to Care

DGIM research aims to improve access to care and health outcomes for people and communities who are racially or ethnically minoritized, LGBTQIA+, and/or immigrants. Dr. Viraj Patel and Dr. Robert Beil and others conduct pragmatic research to improve the health and well-being of LGBTQIA+ communities and study how to train medical providers to provide LGBTQIA+ sensitive care. Dr. Chanelle Diaz and Dr. Jonathan Ross study immigration policies as social/structural determinants of health that drive health inequities, and how to engage impacted communities as partners in research on improving health outcomes for immigrants. Dr. Iman Hassan, Dr. Shani Scott, and Dr. Shwetha Iyer study approaches to train physicians and medical trainees to address structural and social determinants of health. Dr. Sharon Rikin studies innovative strategies to improve access to medical specialists using electronic consultations (e-consults) and remote monitoring for blood pressure and diabetes management. Research at DGIM described elsewhere also addresses health equity in substance use, HIV, and criminal justice. Dr. Deborah Swiderski leads the Serious Illness Conversation Project, training providers in end-of- life communication skills and conducting qualitative research to understand barriers to this work in the Bronx communities we serve.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be debilitating and innovative approaches are needed. Dr. Hector Perez studies virtual reality for chronic pain. Dr. Joanna Starrels and Dr. Hector Perez have examined several issues related to longterm opioid use for chronic pain, including best practices for opioid prescribing and tapering. Dr. Laila Khalid and Dr. Serena Roth created, lead, and examine innovative models for clinical care including a primary care-embedded clinic that cares for patients with chronic pain while training the next generation of physicians. Dr. Justina Groeger studies chronic pain and opioid use in older adults, including post-operatively.

Medical Cannabis

As cannabis use has expanded across the United States, there is a great need to understand the risks and benefits. Dr. Julia Arnsten and Dr. Deepika Slawek lead a cutting-edge program of research to study how people use medical cannabis and how use impacts chronic pain and opioid use. Dr. Slawek also conducts research about medical cannabis in people living with HIV.

Criminal Legal System and Health

DGIM research aims to understand and improve health of currently and formerly incarcerated people. Dr. Matthew Akiyama studies strategies to test and link people with Hepatitis C Virus, HIV, and COVID- 19 to care during and after incarceration. Dr. Aaron Fox studies strategies to link and retain patients in care for substance use disorder treatment after incarceration. Dr. Chanelle Diaz studies the health harms associated with immigration detention and strategies to link immigrant patients with serious health issues to trauma-informed care post-release.

Preventive Oncology

DGIM research aims to reduce preventable cancer, such as cancers related to infectious agents or substance use. Dr. Kathy Anastos and Dr. Marcel Yotebieng study the impact of HIV and human papilloma virus (HPV) on cancer in PLWH in the Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in collaboration with local and international colleagues. Dr. Shadi Nahvi conducts clinical trials to test treatments to reduce nicotine and tobacco use, particularly in people who use drugs.

Medical Education

In parallel with DGIM’s commitment to high-quality education and training for medical students, resident physicians, and all of our physicians, many DGIM faculty conduct research to optimize medical training. Dr. Felise Milan and Dr. Sandra Oza study approaches to medical student clinical skills development and Dr. Sheira Schlair and Dr. Deborah Swiderski focus on training providers to improve their communication skills. Dr. Iman Hassan and Dr. Shani Scott develop and test curricula to improve structural competency. Dr. Shwetha Iyer, Dr. Erin Goss, and Dr. Lauren Shapiro study innovative strategies to train resident physicians in social justice and patient care. Dr. Darlene LeFrancois studies training in physical examination and bedside clinical skills. Dr. Tiffany Lu, Dr. Kristine-Torres-Lockhart, Dr. Laila Khalid, and Dr. Melissa Stein develop and test curricula to increase medical trainees’ clinical knowledge and skills in addiction care and reduce stigma around substance use.