In an exciting development that may offer a useful model for other divisions and departments, Nicole R. Fowler, PhD, MHSA, has been named the first-ever Director of Research for the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. In this new role, Fowler will be focused on leading the strategic growth of the division’s research mission, goals, and objectives.
Fowler, an Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of the IU Center for Aging Research, said that she is eager to join the division’s leadership team to help strengthen its research portfolio (which was more than 23 million dollars in 2020-2021, including division investigators at both IU and the VA).
“The research in our division is very strong in many areas, including health services research, palliative care, aging, and informatics,” she said, pointing to the various research centers associated with each of these areas. “However, we could go further by aligning these singular areas of strength across the division, finding new ways to collaborate, and — importantly — putting infrastructure in place to train new researchers.”
Fowler joined the faculty of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics at IU in 2014 after fifteen years at the University of Pittsburgh. In her own work, she conducts person-centered clinical research that aims to improve the experience for older adults with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, as well as for their caregivers. She has a particular focus on early detection of cognitive impairment in older adults, and how that impacts these patients, their families, and their providers.
She said that she’s always enjoyed the operations of research in addition to the research itself, which is what attracted her to the new director role.
“Coming up with a good scientific idea isn’t the same as running a project really well,” she said. “To execute a trial, for example, it takes a certain amount of skill in management — and, ultimately, this makes the science better.”
The division has 37 research faculty. Engaging these researchers will be a critical first step, Fowler said.
“It will be essential for me to ask the scientists in the division: what’s going really well, and what are our areas for growth? Where do you see opportunities for collaboration?” she said. “I’m eager to help identify and focus on those opportunities for internal and external growth.”