Explore This Research Center

The Center for Aging and Serious Illness (CASI) research center at Massachusetts General Hospital was established in the fall of 2019 to bring together researchers across Mass General and the Boston community to improve the well-being of older adults and enhance the lived experience of those with advanced illnesses.

Demographically, the proportion of people who are elderly in the United States is on the rise. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that there will be more older adults (persons over 65) than children (persons under 18) by 2034. CASI aims to improve the medical community’s understanding of how to meet the health care needs of this rapidly growing population, including its complex medical and social needs.

Operating within the Mass General Mongan Institute — a research enterprise with the mission to improve the lives of people with complex health needs — CASI recognizes the importance of generating research in the fields of aging and serious illnesses to achieve health equity and holistically shape health policy.

Research Objectives

CASI’s objectives are to:

  • Conduct research that will engage aging populations in research
  • Illuminate how to provide effective care for serious illnesses
  • Augment well-being for older adults and their caregivers

The CASI team will apply methods from intervention, implementation, population health and health policy research to close the current gaps in care of older adults. This research most directly benefits both the current and future aging populations who will require complex care for serious illnesses. However, it will also benefit a broader community of health care providers, researchers, policy makers, patients and their families.

Areas of Research

CASI conducts monthly research salons to discuss its areas of research as well as current and upcoming projects related to:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD)
  • Chronic pain
  • Geriatrics
  • Heart failure
  • Home-based care
  • Multimorbidity
  • Palliative care
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Underrepresented minority populations

Clinical Trials

Palliative Care for Persons with Late-stage Alzheimer's and Related Dementias and Their Caregivers (ADRD-PC)

Investigators have designed the ADRD-PC program of dementia-specific palliative and transitional care, and have shown its feasibility and potential efficacy. Delivered by interdisciplinary hospital palliative care teams, ADRD-PC addresses:

  • Prognostic awareness
  • Symptom management
  • Shared decision-making
  • Transition to community support services

Learn more

Research Team

This center is composed of clinicians and researchers across the fields of palliative care, geriatrics, physical therapy and psychiatry.

Core Faculty

Christine S. Ritchie

Christine RitchieChristine Ritchie, MD, MSPH is Professor of Medicine and the Kenneth L. Minaker Chair of Geriatric Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a board-certified geriatrician and palliative care physician and conducts research focused on optimizing quality of life for those with chronic serious illness and multimorbidity. She has provided geriatric and palliative care to functionally impaired, seriously ill patients with multiple co-occurring conditions and those with dementia for the past two and a half decades.

Her research focuses on patients with complex serious illness and multimorbidity and involves the assessment of patient and caregiver outcomes related to symptoms physical, cognitive and social function among older adults in multiple settings. As a clinician investigator, she has experience in informatics, mixed methods research, clinical trials and implementation science. Dr. Ritchie serves as MPI of the National Institute for Nursing Research-funded Palliative Care Research Cooperative (PCRC) and directs the PCRC Investigator Development Center. She is co-founder and co-director of the Home-based Primary Care Learning Network with co-investigator Dr. Bruce Leff.

She serves as Director of Research for the Division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and directs MGH Center for Aging and Serious Illness Research.

Ana-Maria Vranceanu

Ana Maria VranceanuDr. Ana-Maria Vranceanu is the Founder and Director of the Integrated Brain Health Clinical and Research Program within the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is also an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. She is the former Director of Behavioral Health Integration for the Behavioral Medicine Service and has developed multidisciplinary collaborations with medical practices within MGH including The Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit, The Neurofibromatosis Clinic, The Pain Clinic, The Mild Closed Head Injury Clinic, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. She is an expert in developing in person and live video skills interventions integrated within medical practices, to preserve health, promote recovery after surgery or injury and optimize management of chronic illness. She has served as Principal Investigator on more than 10 foundation or federally funded research grants. She has over 100 publications and has edited the "MGH Book of Behavioral Medicine". Dr. Vranceanu has a particular interest in mentoring interns, postdocs, medical residents and junior faculty members, and has been recently awarded the Dorothy W. Cantor Leadership for Women in Psychology fellowship from the American Psychological Association.

Tamra Keeney

Tamra KeeneyDr. Tamra Keeney is a Clinician Scientist at the Mongan Institute Center for Aging and Serious Illness and an Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  She is a board-certified cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapist with over 10 years of experience providing rehabilitation in academic medical centers.

Dr. Keeney completed her PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences at the MGH Institute of Health Professions and an AHRQ T32 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She has expertise in measurement of frailty, function, and disability and uses health services research methods to evaluate relationships between these constructs, healthcare utilization and outcomes for older adults with complex chronic illness.  As an early career investigator, she is particularly interested in developing and testing palliative rehabilitation models to optimize function and improve quality of life for older adults with advanced heart failure.

Dr. Keeney also serves as the Clinical Director of the Center for Aging and Serious Illness Data Core and leads efforts to evaluate outcomes of novel pilot programs within the Division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine.

CASI Team Members

Naomi Gallopyn

Naomi GallopynNaomi Gallopyn is a Program Manager at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Center for Aging and Serious Illness at the Mongan Institute. In this role she manages the National Home-based Primary Care Learning Network and the Investigator Development Center of the Palliative Care Research Cooperative. Ms. Gallopyn received her Master's degree in Gerontology from the University of Massachusetts –Boston and her Bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Rhode Island. She has worked on many research projects examining home and community-based services as well as the experiences of older adults and persons with significant disability at both MGH and in her educational career. She is passionate about improving the quality of care and accessibility of care to adults with serious illness and limited resources, homebound older adults, and older adults living with Alzheimer’s Disease or Related Dementias.

Shanaz Sharieff

Shanaz SharieffShanaz Sharieff is a Data Analyst at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Aging and Serious Illness at the Mongan Institute and the Department of Palliative Care. In this role she manages the creation, maintenance, support, and innovation of databases and dashboards as well as data analytics. She received her Dual Masters of Master of Business Administration and MS in Business Analytics from Suffolk University – Boston and her Bachelor's degree in Business Management with Finance Major from one of the most well-reputed universities in India. She has worked as a teaching assistant and tutor at Suffolk University and enjoyed helping students. She has also done multiple analytic projects using complex data sets. She is very data-driven and passionate about converting data into actionable solutions. In her free time, she loves baking, reading, and traveling, but that was before the pandemic.

Maimouna Sy

Maimouna SyMaimouna Sy is a clinical research coordinator at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness. A recent graduate from the University of Connecticut, she received her Bachelor’s in Molecular and Cell Biology and minored in French on the pre-medical track. A Connecticut native for over 15 years, Maimouna travels to Boston with hopes of exploring the city, finding new places to run, and occasionally indulging in her guilty food pleasures. Maimouna joins the Center for Aging and Serious Illness (CASI) with past research experience in exploring cancer survivorship and improving survivors' quality of life through interventions involving mindfulness, spirituality, and coping and is eager to expand her knowledge on serious illnesses.

Jessica Ding

Jessica DingJessica Ding is a clinical research coordinator at the Center for Aging and Serious Illness (CASI). She is originally from State College, PA but has called Boston her home for the past five years. She is a recent graduate of the Harvard-New England Conservatory dual degree program, where she received a Bachelor’s in Social Anthropology on the pre-medical track and a Master's in Music. Jessica plays the piano and the harp (and she recently started learning a more portable instrument: the acoustic guitar). Her past research focused on integrative medicine, aging populations, and chronic illnesses.

Affiliate Faculty

Lien Quach

Lien QuachLien Quach, PhD, MD, is a Gerontologist and Research Scientist at the Medical Practice Evaluation Center at MGH and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Gerontology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She was born in Vietnam, she practiced geriatric medicine there for ten years before moving to the US to earn an MPH degree at Brown University and her Ph.D. in Gerontology at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Her research interests focus on the social determinants of health, specifically how social (dis)connection patterns relate to mental health, physical function, and quality of life in older adults. Her work seeks to understand the unique roles social isolation, network characteristics, and social support play in health outcomes in older adults, including people living with HIV/AIDS both in the United States and globally. She also has expertise in designing and analyzing surveys using survival analyses, generalized estimating equations, moderation, mediation analyses, network analysis, and measurement modeling.

Linda L. Emanuel

Linda EmanuelLinda Emanuel, MD, PhD is a psychoanalyst with a general practice, working with adults and children. She has a special interest in people coping with serious illness and loss. She lives near Boston and works for the most part by videoconference with people wherever they are. Dr. Emanuel has a special interest in people coping with serious illness and loss that continues from her many years working as an academic internist in palliative medicine.

She is a member of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and a Professor Emerita of Medicine at Northwestern University’s Medical School. Dr. Emanuel was formerly Director of the Buehler Center on Aging.

Olivia Okereke

Olivia OkerekeOlivia Okereke, MD, MS is a Board-certified geriatric psychiatrist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. She is Director of Geriatric Psychiatry and Director (Research) of the Geriatric Psychiatry Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Okereke’s programmatic goals are: (1) to identify modifiable risk factors involved in adverse mental aging and (2) to translate and apply knowledge gained into strategies for large-scale prevention of late-life depression and cognitive decline. Her research portfolio has been supported by numerous National Institutes of Health, University and foundation awards. Currently, she is: evaluating the role of dietary factors, such as vitamin D and omega-3, along with novel biologic markers in relation to risk of late-life cognitive decline and depression; testing effects of nutritional interventions on late-life mood in large-scale randomized trial settings; and addressing relations of later-life depression and anxiety to molecular markers of biological aging, with attention to their potential contributions to disparities in health and aging.

Dr. Okereke is active in efforts to promote knowledge in geriatric mental health. She regularly provides education on healthy brain aging at community centers, Councils on Aging, and senior centers around Massachusetts. She has served on both the Board of Directors and the Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee of the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and has been a Past Chair of the Chapter’s Annual Meeting.

Brent P. Forester

Brent P. ForesterBrent P. Forester, MD, MSc, is the chief of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at McLean Hospital and medical director for Dementia Care and Behavioral & Mental Health Population Health Management at Mass General Brigham. Dr. Forester is an expert in geriatric psychiatry, specializing in the treatment of older adults with depression, bipolar disorder, and behavioral complications of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. He is co-president of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP), a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and has previously served on the board of director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts/New Hampshire and was chair of their Medical Scientific Committee.

Dr. Forester’s research focuses on novel treatment approaches to manage the disabling behavioral complications of dementia, such as agitation and aggression. Dr. Forester’s work also includes studies using brain imaging techniques and careful clinical assessment to better understand the causes of depression and bipolar disorder in later life and to identify promising new targets for effective treatments.

Faculty Applying for Affiliation

  • Erica Wilson
  • Vicki Jackson
  • Mihir Kamdar
  • Laura Petrillo
  • Ruth Lopez
  • Kathy Lyons
  • Bharati Kochar
  • Masaya Higuchi
  • Liu Shan
  • Liliana Ramirez Gomez
  • Christy Cauley