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Areas of Research

The Northwestern Emergency Medicine research program is diverse and multidisciplinary, covering a wide range of topics. A few topics of interest with ongoing research and funding include:


 Pain Management & Opioid Use Disorder

Primary Researchers: Howard Kim, Danielle McCarthy, Patrick Lank, Lori Post, Maryann MasonMegan McHugh

Our interest in pain management is rooted in the frequency of patient’s presenting to the ED with pain as well as the challenges physicians face in meeting patient expectations for pain control, while balancing the judicious use of analgesics.  We have a complimentary interest in opioid use disorder driven by the ongoing opioid epidemic and critical importance of providing care for this patient population.  Our research efforts in these areas have included: assessing the influence of ED-based physical therapy initiation on pain and use of analgesics, quantifying patterns of benzodiazepine and opioid co-prescription, improving education for patients about opioids at the time of a first prescription, assessing system barriers to ED Narcan distribution, evaluating the social construction of addiction, and investigating the link between pharmaceutical incentive payments to physicians to prescribe opioids and death.

 Geriatric Emergency Medicine

Primary Researchers: Scott Dresden, Alex Lo, Lori Post

The goal of our geriatric emergency medicine research program is to better understand and optimize the challenging process of providing quality care that matches patients’ goals and needs to a geriatric population. We are additionally interested in elder abuse and exploitation detection. To this end our efforts have included:  evaluating factors associated with admission of elderly patients, developing and evaluating innovative ED care systems with multidisciplinary teams to improve quality care delivery, evaluating geriatric patients health-related quality of life after an ED visit, and developing better screening tools for detecting elder abuse.

 Patient Centered Communication

Primary Researchers: Danielle McCarthy, Amy Kontrick, Howard Kim

Our research in patient centered communication strives to to improve health care communication in the hectic and time limited ED setting, particularly for vulnerable patients with low-health literacy.  Some of the topics of particular interest include risk communication about opioids, communication about expectations for symptom improvement with acute back pain, communication in the setting of diagnostic uncertainty, and communication about incidental findings on ED imaging studies.

 Neurologic Emergencies

Primary Researchers: Peter Pruitt

The goal of our research program in neurologic emergencies is twofold.  We have focused on pre-hospital management stroke, and particularly on how communication affects systems of care for patients with stroke.  Some recent studies on this topic have included: an evaluation of the words used by patients during 9-1-1 calls for stroke and developing a community-partnered intervention to improve early recognition of stroke. Currently our neurologic research program is focused on intracranial hemorrhage, specifically hematoma.  These projects have focused on determining patients who are at low risk for clinical decompensating and subsequently have developed a decision instrument to identify patients with low-risk subdural hematoma.

 Global Health

Primary researchers: Jennifer Chan, Lori Post

The goal of our research program in global health is twofold.  First, in the context of humanitarian disaster response we conduct transdisciplinary crisis informatics research with a focus on social media and health response. Research efforts in this area have included: the use of mathematical modeling of real-time field data in disaster contexts, evaluating the use of text message data by disaster response teams., and leveraging artificial intelligence and natural language processing to transform social media big data for disaster  health response. Second, we study the topic of gender-based violence globally.  This research has focused on female genital mutilation as well as outcomes of food insecurity at a global level and the relationship between food insecurity and violence.

 Disease Surveillance

Primary researchers: Maryann Mason, Sarah Welch

Our research in disease surveillance is focused on understanding emerging trends in violent death and drug overdose that affect the health and well-being of the community.  Dr. Maryann Mason serves as the director of two statewide surveillance systems: the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System (IVDRS) and the Statewide Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS).  These systems pool unique data elements from multiple sources into usable, anonymous databases with a goal of ultimately developing prevention approaches.

External Grants


  • Abra Fant, MD, MS
    Development of a Unified System of Assessment and Predictive Learning Analytics Utilizing Entrustable Professional Activities Across Emergency Medicine Residency Programs
    American Medical Association Redesigning Residency Pilot Grant 
  • Scott Dresden, MD MS (Site PI)
    Emergency Medicine Palliative Care Access (EMPallA)
    Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
  • Howard Kim, MD MS (Site PI)
    Emergency Department-Initiated Buprenorphine Validation Network Trial (ED-INNOVATION)
    National Institutes of Health (NIH) Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative (HEAL).  
  • Maryann Mason, PhD
    Communicating to turn data into action - Connecting Illinois Violent Death Reporting System (IVDRS) and Statewide Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS) data to communities
    Anonymously funded
  •  Peter Pruitt, MD MS 
    Influence of Cooling duration on Efficacy in Cardiac Arrest Patients (ICECAP)
    NIH Strategies to Innovate EmeRgENcy Care Clinical Trials Network (SIREN)


  • Scott Dresden, MD MS
    A Randomized Controlled Trial of Geriatric Emergency Department Innovations
    AHRQ R01
  • Megan McHugh PhD
    Manufacturing and the Opioid Epidemic
    Manufacturing Institute
  • Howard Kim, MD MS (Site PI)
    Safely Improving Emergency Diagnostic Testing Through Clinical Safe Harbors
    AHRQ R18
  • Patrick Lank, MD MS and Howard Kim, MD MS (Co-PIs)
    Buprenorphine and Naloxone Hospital Demonstration Project
    Illinois Public Health Institute, Alliance for Health Equity
  • Lori Post, PhD (Site PI)
    Global Security Act: Policy Analysis and Measurement
    U.S. Agency for International Development/Rutgers University
  • Lori Post, PhD (Subaward PI)
    The Effect of the Opiod Crisis on the Farm Sector: Implications from the Rural Economy
    U.S. Department of Agriculture/University of Florida
  • Lori Post, PhD
    Tracking Guns Among Veterans
    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs/VA Connecticute Healthcare System


  • Peter Pruitt MD MS
    Improving Triage Precision in Patients with Subdural Hematoma
    Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Foundation, Research Training Grant


  • Danielle McCarthy, MD MS (Site PI)
    Promoting safe care transitions: Simulation-based mastery learning to improve communication in times of diagnostic uncertainty
    AHRQ R18
  • Howard Kim MD MS
    Patient-Reported Outcomes Following ED Physical Therapy for Acute Low Back Pain
    AHRQ K12
  • Lori Post PhD
    Field-generated innovations to address elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation
    Office for Victims of Crime


  • Howard Kim MD MS
    ED Provider Perspectives on Analgesic Prescribing Choice: A focus on benzodiazepine-opioid co-prescription
    Emergency Medicine Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Scott Dresden MD MS
    Effects of a Dedicated Geriatric Nurse Liason intervention for Geriatric Patients in the Emergency Department
    American Geriatric Society/National Institute of Aging GEMSTAR


  • Emilie Powell MS MD MBA
    In Situ Simulation for Adoption of New Technology to Enhance Safety in Rural EDs
    AHRQ R18


  • Danielle McCarthy MD MS
    EHR Based Medication Complete Communication Strategy to Promote Safe Opioid Use
    AHRQ R18
  • Jennifer Chan MD MPH
    GOALI: Improving Medical Preparedness, Public Safety and Security at Mass Events
    National Science Foundation    


  • Jennifer Chan MD MPH
    Advancing Dynamic Relief Response: Integration of New Data Streams and Routing Models
    National Science Foundation

Northwestern University Internal Grants


  • Danielle McCarthy MD, MS
    Development and usability testing of an Uncertainty Discharge Document (UDD)
    Davee Foundation
  • Howard Kim MD, MS
    Evaluating the Effectiveness of ED-Initiated Physical Therapy for Acute Low Back Pain
    Davee Foundation
  • Amy Kontrick, MD
    Hepatic Steatosis and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Provider knowledge and practice in the ED
    Davee Foundation
  • Alex Lo, MD, PhD
    Planning grant: National analysis of physical and social factors associated with geriatric outdoor falls and pedestrian injuries.
    Davee Foundation
  • Scott Dresden, MD, MS
    Feasibility and pilot testing of the EDEN volunteer and community outreach program for persons living with dementia
    Davee Foundation


  • Demetrios Kyriacou MD PhD
    Ibuprofen versus Tylenol for the treatment of mild traumatic brain injury
    Women’s Board of Northwestern


  • David Lu MD MSBE
    The impact of provider wellness on quality of emergency care
    Northwestern Memorial Hospital


  • Jennifer Chan MD MPH
    Advancing Dynamic Relief Response: Integration of New Data Streams and Routing Models
    National Science Foundation


  • David Salzman MD MS
    Use of a simulation based mastery learning program to improve lumbar puncture performance in the Emergency Department
    Northwestern Memorial Foundation

Many other areas of research are ongoing including emergency department operations, medical simulation, ultrasound, education and informatics.

Additionally, the faculty members in the Department of Emergency Medicine work closely other departments, centers and institutes throughout the Northwestern University system. These valued collaborations include:

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