The Advanced HEAlth Data (AHEAD) Research Institute at Saint Louis University is a comprehensive center for data-driven innovation and research aimed at improving the health of individuals and populations.
The institute brings together researchers from various fields and disciplines to help improve patient and population health, advance the quality of health care and decrease health care costs. The new institute will utilize and develop data resources; novel analytic methods; predictive modeling; machine learning; and integrated, wearable health devices and will collaborate with national research networks.
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 create new efficiencies for physicians and more positive outcomes for patients.
The AHEAD Institute specializes in creative and responsive solutions for scientific problems faced by academic, industry, government and nonprofit organizations. We combine academic rigor with responsive service to provide actionable results.
The AHEAD team comprises faculty, researchers, staff and doctoral students who are experts in statistics, medicine, public health, economics, program evaluation and research methodology. The research conducted at the AHEAD Institute covers a variety of disciplines and topics, including epidemiology, health services, quality improvement, health outcomes, economics, social determinants of health, health disparities and geospatial intelligence.
Early examples of work undertaken by AHEAD researchers include:
- Research on chronic prescription-opioid use and pain management
- Studies to help reduce hospital re-admissions
- Assessment of access to diabetes technologies in underserved populations
What We're Up To
AHEAD researchers have recently published on projects related to:
- Infant, pediatric and adult well visit trends before and during the COVID-19 pandemic (BMC Health Services Research)
- The association between Tdap vaccination and dementia (The Journals of Gerontology: Series A)
- The impact of CDC guidelines on opioid prescribing practices (JAMA Network Open, Preventative Medicine, International Journal of Drug Policy)
The AHEAD Institute warehouses several large databases available for research. Currently available databases include:
- Nationally distributed sample of electronic health records, with a subset of linked medical claims data
- Nationally representative sample of all-payer inpatient care
- Nationally representative sample of all-payer pediatric inpatient care
- Nationally representative sample of emergency department visits
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
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.
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
- Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about the status of your department.
- Washington University in St. Louis’s (WashU) Institute of Clinical and Translational
Sciences (ICTS) Just-In-Time (JIT) funding
- The Advanced HEAlth Data Institute was recently named 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 email@example.com to find a solution.
Requesting Data and Research Support Services
To request research support services, please fill out our Data and Research Support Interest Form at https://redcap.link/ahead-interest-form with information regarding your research project.
This statement of interest form provides the AHEAD Institute with a record of your request and enables the AHEAD Institute to ensure your needs are met.
Once the AHEAD Institute receives your completed request, the following actions will occur:
- The AHEAD director of operations and outreach processes all requests weekly and will schedule a 30-60 minute research consultation meeting, which will include necessary AHEAD faculty and staff (i.e. data manager, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 $120 per hour.
For best results when using REDCap, we suggest using Firefox as your web browser to avoid issues with saving data.
Effective January 20, 2022: To create a new REDCap account:
- Email email@example.com 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
To create a guest account for an external research collaborator (including SSM Health employees):
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information:
- Sponsoring SLU Faculty Name
- 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
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"
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.
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.
To start collecting live data, users must move a project into the production phase by emailing email@example.com 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.
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 IRB website for more information regarding identifiable information.
There are several short and concise videos located 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.
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.
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
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.
Clinical Research Scholars Program
The Clinical Research Scholars Program is a comprehensive program to provide early stage clinicians with research training and support as they move towards becoming successful physician scientists. The program is designed to strengthen research skills, enhance research capacity and increase research productivity for highly motivated clinical faculty.
Program participants are paired with a research faculty mentor and a data analyst. Participants are expected to identify their five-year research agenda, develop research questions, work with their mentor and analytic team to identify appropriate sources of data and an analytic strategy, master writing skills for manuscripts and grant proposals and publish their work. Clinical faculty are provided with protected research time as part of their CRSP appointment and are expected to spend one day per week at the AHEAD Institute working on clinical or health-outcomes research. Faculty are evaluated annually to ensure they are meeting program goals for research productivity.
- Biostatistical support for study design, abstraction of study samples, data analysis and interpretation and presentation of results
- Research mentorship and assistance developing a research agenda, study design and methodology, assistance with manuscript and grant preparation, and accountability
Applications are accepted beginning in April each year. Applicants are expected to provide:
- The completed application form
- A statement of research interest describing the investigator’s area of research interest, prior research activities and research goals for the next three years
- A personal statement indicating how participation in the program will advance the investigator’s development as a researcher and a stated commitment to program requirements and activities
A list of the current CRSP fellows can be found below.
Executive Director, AHEAD Institute
Chair, Associate Professor, Health and Clinical Outcomes Research
Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D.
Senior Director for Research, AHEAD Institute
Professor, Family and Community Medicine
Professor, Family and Community Medicine
Professor, Health and Clinical Outcomes Research
Assistant Professor, Health and Clinical Outcomes Research
Assistant Professor, Family and Community Medicine
Director of Operations & Outreach
Director for Data Management and Informatics
Director for Biostatistics
Director for Prospective and Clinical Trial Analytics
View Dr. Brinkmeier's Full Profile
View Dr. Hamilton's Full Profile
View Dr. Rukmangadachar's Full Profile
View Dr. Ferber's Full Profile
View Dr. Mercier's Full Profile
View Dr. Patel's Full Profile
Niraj Chavan, M.D.
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.