Safety Net 2023 awardees

The CTSI Community Engagement and Research Program (CERP) has announced recipients of the latest round of Safety-Net Health Innovation Awards. Bridgette Blebu, MPH, PhD and Tara Russell, MD, PhD, MPH, have been awarded $150,000 each to support their pilot intervention projects aimed at enhancing quality, efficiency, and patient-centered care in the LA County health system. "These two exceptionally talented early stage investigators are leading important work that will benefit patients and providers across the Los Angeles County safety net," says Arleen Brown, MD, PhD, co-director of the UCLA CTSI and professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research.

Bridgette Blebu, MPH, PhD, is a faculty investigator in the Lundquist Institute's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Blebu's project will address care for patients with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) by piloting a strategy to improve mental health care transitions during the post partum period. Dr. Blebu's collaborators include researchers from the Reproductive Mental Health Program at LAC+USC, the UCLA Nursing Department, and the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. The project is expected to lead to improvement in the gaps in the cascade of care within LA County Department of Health Services (DHS) to provide timely, efficient care. 

Bridgette Blebu, MPH, PhD

"We are very grateful for the support to address this important question of optimizing the delivery of quality collaborative care for perinatal clients experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders at DHS. This funding will provide an opportunity for us to learn more about the experiences (including health-related social needs) of this vulnerable population and align them with care that improves outcomes." - Bridgette Blebu, MPH, PhD

Tara Russell, MD, PhD, MPH, is assistant professor-in-residence at UCLA Department of Surgery and a colorectal and general surgeon at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Russell's project aims to improve colorectal cancer (CRC) surveillance within DHS. Co-collaborators include a project team of colorectal surgeons and oncologists from UCLA, Harbor-UCLA and Olive View. This project is expected to improve the quality and efficiency of CRC surveillance through patient-centered education, optimization of service delivery, and multi-disciplinary care coordination. 

Tara Russell, MD, PhD, MPH

"My project focuses on designing a standardized Colorectal Cancer Surveillance Program that is patient-centered, effective and efficient. In collaboration with LA County we are designing a report to monitor surveillance testing and developing resources to streamline surveillance with the use telehealth visits." - Tara Russell, MD, PhD, MPH

The Safety-Net Innovation Awards are a part of an ongoing partnership between the UCLA CTSI and the LA County Department of Health Services. Spearheaded by CERP, this collaboration with the County is a greater effort to drive and implement innovation and improvement in the LA safety-net health care system. 

Blebu and Russell join a diverse group of past Safety-Net Innovation awardees whose implementation projects have demonstrated impact on outcomes for 82,000 DHS patients and 270 providers and LAUSD students to date. “I was excited to support Dr. Russell and Blebu’s projects for two key reasons. Their proposals sought to genuinely improve the real-world delivery of important healthcare services in a sustainable and generalizable manner,” says Hal Yee Jr., MD, PhD, chief deputy director of clinical affairs and chief medical officer at the LA County Department of Health Services. “Importantly, these two investigators demonstrated authentic intent to build their professional careers on this work, potentially at DHS and UCLA.”

Since its inception, the LAC CHS/UCLA Safety-Net Innovation Awards have previously funded 18 projects totaling $1.05 million in funding. Five of those projects were co-sponsored in partnership with the Southern California CTSI at the University of Southern California (USC). “It’s been a pleasure to work with UCLA and other academic partners on the evolution of this novel and meaningful awards program that means to transform American healthcare,” remarks Dr. Yee.