Urban Health Equity

Urban Health Equity: Predicting Future Needs in Aging

Thomas B. Jankowski, PhD – Associate Director for Research, Politics and Policy of Aging

As associate director for research, Dr. Jankowski works to ensure that the faculty and staff of the IOG and the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute have the facilities, resources, and technical support to successfully conduct their research. In his own research, Dr. Jankowski partners with and is funded by local and regional units of government, state agencies, non-profit service providers, community-based organizations, and older adult advocacy groups to help them assess the needs of older adults and the effectiveness of the programs and services they deliver.

He chairs the board of directors of The Senior Alliance (Michigan Area Agency on Aging 1-C), and is vice president of the board of trustees of the Hannan Center in Detroit.  He also serves on the boards of the Southeast Michigan Senior Regional Collaborative and the Baldwin Society for the Support of Older Adults. Through his involvement in these community-based organizations, Dr. Jankowski is working to develop affordable housing for older adults, to serve the needs of those struggling with loneliness and social isolation, and to measure the impact that supportive services have on the lives of older adults trying to maintain their independence in their homes and communities. Dr. Jankowski is also a WSU adjunct assistant professor of political science and gerontology.

GRANTS: THOMAS JANKOWSKI, PI

Program Evaluation for UP-Scan: Addressing Elder Financial Exploitation in Rural Communities
Elder Law of Michigan/Office of Violence (5Y) / $90,000
Assist in collecting, testing and evaluating data as well as helping in the design and testing of tools and processes to complete Elder Law of Michigan's grant project with the Department of Justice.

TimeSlips Story Kit
Time Slips Creative (2Y) / $20,000
Engaging partners in a pilot project in SE Michigan to bring creative engagement to family, community and professional caregivers through Story Kits and Engagement Parties for persons with dementia.

Michigan Health Endowment Fund Integrated Care Program Evaluation
Southeast Michigan Senior Alliance (1Y) / $16,000
Review, provide expert advice, and assist with all aspects of the program evaluation of the Senior Regional Collaborative's Integrated Care project.


Gail Jensen Summers, PhD – Co-Director, IOG Pre-doctoral Training, Health Economics

Dr. Jensen Summers co-directs IOG's Pre-Doctoral Training Program in Aging and Health.  She mentors students enrolled in this program and oversees their progress, organizes IOG's bi-weekly research seminars, and coordinates the annual "Lifespan Alliance Research Day," showcasing the research conducted by graduate students.  

Dr. Jensen Summers deftly combines a talent for teaching (she consistently ranks as one of the best economics teachers at WSU) with an instinct for important research projects. Her research focuses on analyzing the effects of health system reform on older adults and other vulnerable populations, as well as studying healthcare disparities, healthy aging, and the economics of health insurance. During the past two years, she co-authored eight peer-reviewed publications, several focused on Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and the effects of changes in these programs on the use of services and on health. Dr. Jensen Summers is the primary advisor to two doctoral students and serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Health Economics and Management


Wassim Tarraf, MBA, PhD Minority Health and Aging

Above: Dr. Wassim Tarraf who data set analysis is discussed in "Michigan Grapples with COVID-19's Disproportionate Impact on People of Color's Mental Health" 

Dr. Tarraf is a gerontologist, methodologist, health services researcher, and policy analyst. In 2020, he earned a promotion to associate professor with tenure in the Eugene Appelbaum School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. His research evaluates disparities in health, health behavior, and healthcare access and use in racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S., and investigates the social determinants of health and healthcare.

In the past two years, he has co-authored 26 peer-reviewed papers and is the principal investigator (on site) of five R01 grant projects. He is a member of the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Aging grant review panel. Most recently, he analyzed Census and other survey data to better understand the pandemics impact on the mental health of older Blacks, Asians and Hispanics. (pdf) View full preliminary report here (pdf).

Dr. Tarraf is an affiliated investigator on the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, the largest epidemiological study of diverse Hispanic/Latinos in the US. Through this work, Dr. Tarraf leads the statistical analysis on studies of Latinos' cognitive aging and the risk of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and two exploratory (R21) grants to examine sleep and blood pressure as risk factors for unhealthy aging among Latinos. He co-leads the Analysis Core of two Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research focused on training the next generation of researchers in minority health and enhancing the diversity of researchers in aging. He also mentors a post-doctoral fellow, two graduate students and three undergraduate students.

GRANTS: WASSIM TARRAF

Sleep in Neurocognitive Aging and Alzheimer's Research
Site PI, National Institutes of Health (with University of Miami) (5Y) / $629,000
Work with the PI to integrate longitudinal data from the parent Study of Latinos project into data collected from this sleep research, including supervising statistical analysis, data collection and quality control.

MRI Measures of Cerebrovascular Injury and AD Atrophy in the Study of Latinos
Co-I, National Institutes of Health (5Y) / $602,000
Measure vascular brain injury, cortical volume and thickness, and hippocampal volume to estimate degrees of Alzheimer's atrophy in various Latino racial admixtures.

Study of Latinos – Investigation of Neurocognitive Aging
Co-I and Lead Statistician, National Institute on Aging (5Y) / $528,000
Study 6,600 Latino and Hispanic older adults to better understand the progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's.

Neurocognitive Aging & Alzheimer's Disease DNA Methylation in Diverse Latinos
Site PI, National Institutes of Health (5Y) / $497,000
Integrate DNA methylation into several areas of the Study of Latinos project by helping to generate data, maintain quality control and ensure sample conformity to meet the study aims.

Study of Latinos – Investigation of Neurocognitive Aging 2
Site PI, National Institutes of Health (with University of California San Diego) (2Y) / $440,000
Follow-on to original Study of Latinos above

Subjective Cognitive Decline and Objective Cognitive Trajectories in Older Hispanics/Latinos
Co-I, National Institutes of Health (with University of California San Diego) (5Y) / $120,000
Supervise statistical analysis for publications, and assist in supervising data collection, quality control and data maintenance.

Sleep Apnea Phenotypes in Latinos (SLEPT)
PI, National Institutes of Health, R21 (2Y) / $89,000
Analyze sleep and neurocognitive tests from the 16,415-person Study of Latinos to determine the effect of sleep apnea on neurocognitive decline and the association with cardiovascular risk factors.