UNLV health care administration and policy professor Jay Shen is concerned that palliative care is not well understood or utilized by many minority groups, particularly Asian-Americans.
With the help of a number of community partners, he and his team, consisting of researchers from UNLV’s School of Nursing and School of Medicine, conducted research to learn more about the Asian-American community’s perceptions and use of this type of care, which focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, pain, and physical and mental stress associated with life-limiting illness. A second phase of his research will include promotion of palliative care to this population.
His work in this area has earned him the university’s 2019 Community Engagement Award for Community-Based Research, which was presented at the Academic Achievement Awards in April.
Shen, who serves as associate dean of the School of Public Health, has served as principal investigator on two back-to-back, inter-related palliative care projects for which he has obtained more than $340,000 in funding from the Patient-Centered Outcome Research Institute.
“These projects enable us to better understand great unmet needs regarding palliative care in our communities, especially minority communities,” Shen said. “This will help prioritize our research and educational projects and design effective and feasible interventions to improve palliative care awareness, access, and delivery.”
Shen began working with two community partners — Dignity Health and Infinity Hospice Care/Nevada Palliative Care — and later expanded the network to include individual patients and caregivers, as well as the Elaine Wynn Palliative Care Program/Nathan Adelson Hospice, Sunrise Hospital, University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, and Pediatric Palliative Care.
These partners helped Shen and his research team identify major issues related to palliative care in Southern Nevada through patient/caregiver round table discussions; a palliative care provider, patient, caregiver retreat; and patient/caregiver interviews. Through these interactions, the team was able to better understand patient perspectives on how palliative care can enhance their quality of life after receiving a diagnosis of a life-limiting illness.
During the first project, Shen and his team realized that minority groups, including Asian-American communities, might be less aware of palliative care. In the next phase of the project, they are partnering with the Asian Community Development Council (ACDC) and other community organizations, such as the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Nevada Chinse Association, A Grain of Mustard Seed Fellowship United Methodist Church, Healthy Aging, the Nevada Asian and Pacific Islander Nursing Association, Our Lady of La Vang Catholic Church, and CNY in the Desert/Las Vegas Spring Festival. All of these organizations will help the research team organize focus group meetings and attend public events to collect palliative care surveys for needs assessment among the Asian-American communities. The goal is to improve the knowledge and awareness of palliative care among these communities, Shen said.
Shen and his team also are developing educational materials based on needs assessment findings for both the general public and health care providers. They are working with ACDC, as well as other community partners, including the Korean American Medical Association, the Filipino Nursing Association, and the Nevada Asian and Pacific Islander Nursing Association, to offer palliative educational programs to minority communities and health care providers for the purpose of improving awareness of and access to palliative care.
Duy Nguyen, vice president and chief operating officer of ACDC, commends Shen for his research and leadership role.
“Dr. Shen has demonstrated an unrivaled level of commitment to the Asian-Pacific Islander American community, which aligns with our organization’s mission to improve the general well-being of our community in Nevada,” Nguyen said.
UNLV’s office of community engagement established four universitywide awards in 2016 to recognize campus individuals for their exceptional community engagement in the areas of service learning, community-based research, faculty/staff community outreach activity, and student service.