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Our Team


Mary Ersek

Professor of Palliative Care

Mary Ersek


Dr. Mary Ersek has led an interdisciplinary research program focused on pain and palliative care in older adults, with an emphasis on nursing home residents for nearly two decades. These studies include two NIH-funded randomized controlled trials, one investigating the efficacy of a pain self-management group for residents of retirement communities, and another that examined the effectiveness of a pain management algorithm coupled with intensive support and consultation in improving clinical practices and patient outcomes in nursing home residents.


Current funded work includes a pilot study to develop and test a palliative care intervention for persons with advanced dementia as well as an implementation science study to promote the adoption of a POLST-like program within VA nursing homes. Dr. Ersek also is Senior Scientist at the Veteran Experience Center, a national VA quality improvement program, which oversees the administration and reporting of the National Quality Forum- endorsed Bereaved Family Survey (BFS). The Center disseminates BFS results to guide quality improvement efforts in VA medical centers across the country.


Through secondary analyses, the team also informs clinical care and performance measurement in VA and non-VA settings, and disseminates their findings at national meetings and in peer-reviewed journal articles.

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We generate high-quality evidence to advance healthcare policies and practices that improve the lives of all people affected by serious illness.