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The AHEAD Institute

The Advanced HEAlth Data (AHEAD) Research Institute at Saint Louis University School of Medicine is the biostatistics core for data-driven innovation and research to improve the health of individuals and populations.

The institute brings together SLU researchers from various fields and disciplines to improve patient and population health, advance health care quality and decrease health care costs. Through collaborations with national research networks, the institute utilizes and develops data resources, novel analytic methods, predictive modeling, machine learning, and integrated, wearable health devices.

Making a Difference Through Data

The AHEAD Institute underscores the University’s commitment to addressing public health issues and improving patient health outcomes — especially those that disproportionally affect poor and underserved communities — in alignment with the University’s Jesuit mission. To achieve this commitment, the AHEAD Institute relies on health care data for its truly remarkable potential to enhance physician efficiency and improve patient outcomes. The AHEAD Institute specializes in creative and responsive solutions for scientific problems faced by academic, industry, government and nonprofit organizations. 

The AHEAD team comprises faculty, researchers, staff and doctoral students who are experts in statistics, medicine, public health, economics, program evaluation and research methodology. Our blend of academic rigor and personalized service yields actionable results.

The research conducted at the AHEAD Institute spans various disciplines and topics, including epidemiology, public health, economics, geospatial intelligence, health services management and health outcomes. 

Examples of work undertaken by AHEAD researchers include:

  • Research on chronic prescription-opioid use and pain management
  • Studies to help reduce hospital readmissions
  • Assessment of access to diabetes technologies in underserved populations

What We're Up To

Scholarship

AHEAD researchers have recently published on projects related to:

Big Data Research Symposium

The AHEAD Institute and The Administrative Data Core Services at Washington University in St. Louis will co-host the 3rd annual Institutional and Translational Sciences (ICTS) Big Data Research Symposium in September 2024.

At this annual event, we welcome leaders and researchers in big data health outcomes from across the St. Louis Region. The symposium showcases administrative data research aimed at improving health outcomes, quality of care, and health service delivery. Thank you to all the who participated to make the 2023 symposium a success. Details about our 2024 symposium will be announced in June. 

Visit the 2023 Event Webpage

Dine With Data Webinar

Our Dine with Data monthly webinar invites a diverse array of researchers and clinicians to present their latest publications and ongoing research. In this series, listeners gain insight into how researchers navigate challenges and interpret results. All interested faculty, staff, and students are welcome to attend these enriching meetings. RSVP here. Email ahead@slu.edu with additional questions.

Upcoming Webinars

  • Development and Testing of the Preceptor Self-Assessment Tool
  • Evaluating Effectiveness of Treatment for COVID-19 from Big Data
    •  Yan Xie, Ph.D. from the VA Saint Louis Health Care System Clinical Epidemiology Center
    • April 17, Noon-1 p.m.
  • Title: TBD
    • Debbie Bennett, M.D. from the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Washington University in St. Louis
    • May 22, Noon-1 p.m.

View Previous Dine with Data Recordings

Monthly Newsletter

Our AHEAD monthly newsletter is dedicated to informing you about the latest developments, achievements and upcoming events within the institute. Our mission to stay connected and share our successes is our priority, and this newsletter gives us the opportunity to engage with valued faculty, staff, researchers, and students like you. To contribute events and announcements to future newsletters, email ahead@health.slu.edu.

November 2023 AHEAD Newsletter

December 2023 AHEAD Newsletter

January 2024 AHEAD Newsletter

February 2024 AHEAD Newsletter

Event and Training Recordings 

Unmasking Fraud in Healthcare: Health Data Science Event

What is fraud, waste and abuse in health care, and why does it matter? Centene's Regional Vice President of Payment Integrity Tammy Schmaeng, and Senior Director for FWA Analytics Terri Kenner, discussed the role of data analysts in healthcare. Join us to learn how their business utilizes healthcare data to identify and solve problems. This event was recorded on Jan. 24, 2024.

All of Us: Research Training Program

The AHEAD Team recently learned about the All of Us Research Program. This training was recorded on Jan. 31, 2024.

 

Data Warehousing

The AHEAD Institute warehouses several large databases for research. Databases include:

  • Nationally representative sample of all-payer inpatient care
  • Nationally representative sample of all-payer pediatric inpatient care
  • Nationally representative sample of emergency department visits
  • Nationally representative sample of readmissions data
  • SLU-SSM Virtual Data Warehouse - EHR data from over 5 million patients in the healthcare system since Jan. 1, 2008
  • Publicly available databases (e.g. BRFSS, YRBS, NHANES, etc.)

AHEAD also can assist in identifying, obtaining and maintaining data to meet specific research needs. See below for instructions on requesting data.

Research Support Services

leslie-writes-on-whiteboard

Leslie Hinyard, Ph.D., director of the AHEAD Institute, analyzes data during a research consultation.

The AHEAD Institute provides professional scientific services at every stage of the research project life-cycle, including:

  • Study design and protocol development
  • Data collection (telephone, web-based and in-person interviewing; chart abstraction and database extraction)
  • Database design and management
  • Statistical programming and analysis
  • Interpretation and reporting
  • Communication of results

AHEAD Institute also offers other customized technical services related to study design and implementation, such as sample-size calculations and secure data storage and warehousing.

Our mission is to provide specialized technical assistance and management to investigators who share our commitment to improving the effectiveness, efficiency and equitability of the health care system.

Funding Mechanisms

Research support services are offered at a rate of $150/hr. To remove barriers to accessing our services, there are several mechanisms available to secure funding for your research project:

  • Financial relationships with individual units
  • Washington University in St. Louis’ (WashU) Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS) Just-In-Time (JIT) funding
    • The Advanced HEAlth Data Institute is one of the JIT Cores. The JIT Core Usage Funding Program is designed to provide quick access to funding to use any of the JIT Cores for research advancing medical knowledge that can improve human health. This designation for the AHEAD Institute enables SLU researchers to apply for up to $5,000 in funding to utilize AHEAD Institute data and research support services.
    • The JIT Core Usage Funding Program is supported by the ICTS, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Hope Center and Siteman Cancer Center.
    • Projects that utilize this funding mechanism must be approved by the AHEAD Institute prior to application.
  • Internal SLU grants (SLU Spark Microgrant, Applied Health Sciences Research Grant)
  • External grants

If you are unsure how to secure funding to cover research support services for your project, please reach out to us at ahead@health.slu.edu to find a solution.

Requesting Data and Research Support Services

One researcher sits while another stands. They point at a computer screen while examining data.
AHEAD Director of Biostatistics consults with clinical faculty on a research project.

To request research support services, please fill out our Data and Research Support Interest Form with information regarding your research project.

This interest form provides the AHEAD Institute with a record of your request and enables the AHEAD Institute to ensure that your needs are met.

Once the AHEAD Institute receives your completed request, the following actions will occur:

  • The AHEAD program coordinator processes all requests weekly and will schedule a 30-60 minute complementary consultation meeting, which will include necessary AHEAD faculty and staff (i.e. data managers, biostatisticians, AHEAD core faculty) as applicable.
  • A scope of work (SOW) will be developed and approved by all parties following the meeting. The SOW will include:
    • Summary of the work request
    • Data domains required for project
    • Forms that need to be signed and completed (i.e. data use agreements)
    • Estimated delivery date(s)
      • An average of 30 days should be anticipated for data requests and power analysis
    • Location of data on restricted access shared drive, if applicable
    • Associated compensation (research support services are offered at a rate of $150/hr)

Interest forms are reviewed weekly. Please allow seven to ten business days for your request to be processed and for a member of the AHEAD Institute to contact you. Please refer to our Policies and Procedures for Data and Research Support Services for more information on expected timelines for data requests and grant application deliverables. In general, an average period of 30 days should be allowed for subsequent data requests to be fulfilled. For questions, please email ahead@health.slu.edu.

REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture)

The AHEAD Institute offers a free turn-key web-based research survey and data management application and infrastructure that provides secure data capture for research studies and the ability to invite survey participants external to SLU.

REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) is a secure web application for building and managing online surveys and databases. While REDCap can be used to collect virtually any type of data, it is specifically geared to support data capture for research studies. Find a detailed introduction on REDCap's website: http://project-redcap.org.

As of July 20, 2021, an update was made to the latest cloud-based instance of REDCap. For up-to-date information on the AHEAD Institute's efforts to consolidate and upgrade SLU's REDCap application, visit our REDCap at SLU Google Site.

REDCap is designed to be completely self-service for investigators. The AHEAD Institute is responsible for ensuring the REDCap system remains operational, approving new accounts, and moving projects from development to production. For survey design and implementation help, investigators should refer to the REDCap training that is offered for free at https://projectredcap.org/resources/videos/. Alternatively, the AHEAD Institute can provide survey design, build and implementation support for a fee of $150 per hour.

For best results when using REDCap, we suggest using Firefox as your web browser to avoid issues with saving data.

Creating Accounts

New Accounts

Effective Jan. 20, 2022: To create a new REDCap account:

  • Email redcap@health.slu.edu with your name, SLU Net ID, and email address to request a new account
  • After access is confirmed, go to https://redcapsurvey.slu.edu/
  • Enter your SLU Net ID and password
  • On the next page, enter your first and last name, and your SLU email address
  • Please allow 24 hours for new account verification

Guest Accounts

To create a guest account for an external research collaborator (including SSM Health employees):

  • Email redcap@health.slu.edu with the following information:
    • Sponsoring SLU faculty name, email and phone number
    • Guest first and last name
    • Guest date of birth
    • Guest home address
    • Guest email address
    • Start/end date of REDCap project
  • AHEAD staff will submit an AskSLU ticket to generate a Banner ID and SLU Net ID
  • Once confirmed, the guest will be sent their account information and instructions to enroll in Okta
  • The guest will then be able to go to https://redcapsurvey.slu.edu/
    • Enter SLU Net ID and password
    • On the next page, enter first and last name, and SLU email address
    • Please allow 24 hours for new account verification
Creating a Project

Users with a REDCap account can create new projects using the “+ New Project” tab and entering the following information:

  • Project title
  • Select "Research" as the purpose
  • P.I. name
  • P.I. email
  • IRB number
  • Specify research type(s)
  • Select blank project or template (many researchers find the templates to be very helpful)
  • Click "Create Project"

Project Development

Once a project is created, it will be available on the "My Projects" tab. In this development phase, changes can be made as often as needed. Data entry should be tested in this phase with test data. Do not collect any real or live data in the development phase. Test (not live) data should be used to make sure the project functions as expected.

Important Note

Projects must be moved to the production phase to start collecting live data. Any live data collected during the development phase will be lost when the project moves to production.

Project Production

To start collecting live data, users must move a project into the production phase by emailing redcap@slu.edu with either:

• A copy of the IRB approval letter, or
• Indication the project is quality improvement

Projects that do not have IRB approval or QI exception will not be considered for production.

Exporting Data

Data may be identifiable when entered into the REDCap application but users must ensure that data is de-identified before exporting the data, as per the user's respective IRB agreement. A video on how to de-identify your data is available within REDCap under “Data Exports, Reports, and Stats” within an existing project. Please review the SLU Institutional Review Board website for more information regarding identifiable information.

REDCap Training

There are several short and concise videos on the REDCap video resource page. These are excellent videos explaining how to use REDCap, as well as the different types of projects available to use.

REDCap Maintenance and IT Support

Maintenance

Occasionally, updates will need to be applied to the system. The standard planned maintenance window for REDCap is 9-11 a.m. CDT on the second Wednesday of every month. These times were selected based on system usage reporting to identify lower-usage periods.

IT Support

For technical questions or issues regarding REDCap, users can submit a request through the AskSLU service portal and complete the following steps:

  • Home > Sign In > Services > Research > REDCap > Request This Service
  • Your request will go directly to an AHEAD Institute Data Manager

Archiving Projects

Active projects will be reviewed on a quarterly basis for continued activity. If a project has been inactive for 365 days, it will be automatically archived without notice to the project owner.

Our Team

Core Faculty
Leslie Hinyard
Leslie Hinyard, Ph.D., M.S.W.
Executive Director, AHEAD Institute
Chair, Professor, Health and Clinical Outcomes Research
leslie.hinyard@health.slu.edu

View Professor Hinyard's Full Profile

Jeff Scherrer

Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D.
Senior Director for Research, AHEAD Institute
Professor, Family and Community Medicine
jeffrey.scherrer@health.slu.edu

View Professor Scherrer's Full Profile

Paula Buchanan

Paula Buchanan, Ph.D.
Director for Consulting Services, AHEAD Institute
Associate Professor, Director of Academic Affairs, Health and Clinical Outcomes Research
paula.buchanan@health.slu.edu

View Associate Professor Buchanan's Full Profile


Divya Subramaniam headshot
Divya Subramaniam, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Associate Professor and Program Director, Health and Clinical Outcomes Research
divya.subramaniam@health.slu.edu
View Associate Professor Subramaniam's Full Profile


Noor Al-Hammadi Headshot
Noor Al-Hammadi
Director for Prospective and Clinical Trial Analytics
Assistant Professor, Health and Clinical Outcomes Research
noor.alhammadi@health.slu.edu

Sarah Gebauer Headshot
Sarah Gebauer, M.D., M.S.P.H.
Associate Professor, Family and Community Medicine
sarah.gebauer@health.slu.edu

Matthew Breeden Headshot
Matthew Breeden, M.D.
Family and Community Medicine
matthew.breeden@health.slu.edu

Our Staff
Linda Waller Headshot
Linda Waller
Director of Business Strategy, AHEAD Institute, Health and Clinical Outcomes Research
linda.waller@health.slu.edu

Joanne Salas Headshot
Joanne Salas, M.P.H.
Director for Applied Research and Analytics, AHEAD Institute
joanne.salas@health.slu.edu

Thomas Sessa Headshot

Thomas Sessa
Director of Data Oversight
thomas.sessa@health.slu.edu


AHEAD logo
Timothy Chrusciel, M.P.H
Senior Biostatistician
timothy.chrusciel@health.slu.edu

Regina Huang headshot
Regina Huang
Biostatistician
regina.huang@health.slu.edu

zidong-zhang-headshot
Zidong "Alex" Zhang, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.
Biostatistician
zidong.zhang@health.slu.edu

ahead-logo
Jason Doherty, Ph.D.
Biostatistician
jason.doherty@health.slu.edu

A Big Idea

The origins of Saint Louis University’s AHEAD Institute lie in an internal Big Ideas competition to define university-wide strategic research priorities. SLU’s ability to invest in research was greatly enhanced in 2018 when Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield made a historic $50 million gift to accelerate research growth at the University and establish the SLU Research Institute. The AHEAD Institute is among the projects supported by the SLU Research Institute.

Learn More About the Big Ideas Competition