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Left to right: Dr. Farbod Raiszadeh, Dr. Adhya Mehta, and Dr. Angelica De La Fuente

We recently held our 7th Annual Research Day, showcasing studies and analysis conducted by 43 teams of physicians and providers from across PAGNY-affiliated NYC Health + Hospitals institutions.

After two rounds of review, a board of 18 physician peer reviewers honored projects for their particularly impressive research. Below we highlight the three award-winning studies and their PAGNY researchers.

First Prize: A paradoxical relationship between COVID-19 and LDL Cholesterol

Dr. Adhya Mehta—an Internal Medicine resident at NYC H+H/Jacobi—and her team noticed a paradox during the COVID-19 pandemic. High levels of LDL cholesterol are typically associated with poor health outcomes, but for COVID-19 patients, low LDL cholesterol levels were associated with increased severity and mortality. In other words, lower LDL level during COVID-19 is associated with higher likelihood for in-hospital death.

In addition to demonstrating this paradoxical relationship, Dr. Mehta’s research suggests what causes it. Two main effects of COVID-19 are widespread inflammation and a release of cytokines. Both of these cause changes in lipid metabolism, meaning that the body uses up more cholesterol. This causes LDL to drop. Dr. Mehta and her colleagues suggest that LDL could thus have prognostic value during acute SARS-CoV-2 infection.

For investigating, explaining, and operationalizing the paradox of lower LDL cholesterol levels and higher mortality rates for COVID-19 patients, Dr. Mehta and her team won the first prize at PAGNY’s Annual Research Day!

Second Prize: Understanding Family Dynamics of Obesity

Dr. Farbod Raiszadeh of NYC H+H/Harlem, along with his research group, won second prize for their study, “Understanding family dynamics of obesity: Do parents and children lose and gain weight together?” Obesity is extremely prevalent in the U.S., affecting 42% of adults and 20% of children. Despite being so common, little is known about the connection between parent and child weight trajectories. Dr. Raiszadeh’s team assessed that relationship.

First, they used a multi-step matching algorithm to identify 3,821 parent-child pairs within electronic records of NYC H+H. Next, they tested whether parental BMI and its change over time were associated with their children’s weight and obesity. Dr. Raiszadeh and his team found that elevated parental BMI and undesirable weight gain are correlated with undesirable changes in BMI for their children.

This is the first ever study to show such a correlation, an important finding. As a board-certified cardiologist with a PhD in nutritional epidemiology, Dr. Raiszadeh understands the health consequences of obesity, especially in the Harlem community where he works. With this research, he and his collaborators have a new, robust tool for family-centered obesity diagnosis and care.

Third Prize: Remote Mental Health Care for Children and Adolescents

In the Annual Research Day’s third-place study, PAGNY psychologists investigated the widespread increase of telehealth for mental health services during the height of the global pandemic. As COVID-19 forced many patients and doctors to shift their care to remote formats, Dr. Angelica De La Fuente, Psy.D. of NYC H+H/Lincoln led a study on the impact of telehealth on mental health treatment engagement, especially for young patients. The research posed two main questions: did COVID-19 increase the need for mental health care in underserved populations? And given the structural and cultural barriers to mental health treatment, are patients more or less likely to show up for mental health services if that care is given remotely or in person?

Dr. De La Fuente focused on participants in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services (CAPS) Department, aged 5 to 18. The CAPS population is representative of a diverse community in the Bronx where a high percentage of patients are recent immigrants and families living below the poverty line.

The study found that there was indeed an increase in the need for mental health care in the population during the pandemic. In addition, patients were more likely to present to their mental health appointments when the sessions were conducted remotely. These results suggest that telehealth sessions for mental health needs in urban settings can decrease structural barriers to treatment and can increase the utilization of mental health services. By focusing on patients in the South Bronx and at H+H/Lincoln, Dr. De La Fuente’s research provides a foundation for future community-focused mental health care.

At PAGNY, we promote excellence in research and are proud to sponsor initiatives like our Annual Research Day. Our providers’ studies embody PAGNY’s diverse, patient-centered approach to research and healthcare. Congratulations to Dr. Mehta, Dr. Raiszadeh, Dr. De La Fuente, and all participants of PAGNY’s Annual Research Day!


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