The National Palliative Care Research Center

Curing suffering through palliative care research.


Matthew Modes MD, MPP, MS

Assistant Professor

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Grant Year
Grant Term
2 years
Grant Type
Kornfeld Scholars Program

Project Description
Pilot Randomized Trial of a Perspective-Taking Intervention to Enhance Emotional Support for Families of Critically Ill Patients

This Kornfeld Scholars application is a pilot randomized trial of an intervention designed to enhance emotional support and reduce racial disparities in emotional support for families of critically ill patients.
Families of critically ill patients often experience distressing emotions, which can negatively impact their psychological health and ability to make decisions for their loved ones. Critical care guidelines recommend that
clinicians provide not only medical information to families but also emotional support. When clinicians provide emotional support, families report less psychological distress, greater satisfaction with care, and higher-quality
surrogate decision making. Despite this, families often receive little emotional support. Black families receive even less emotional support than White families.

Working with stakeholders, we designed a multicomponent intervention that is rooted in a conceptual model of clinician empathy and incorporates effective, complementary improvement strategies. The intervention promotes perspective taking, in which one actively considers another person's thoughts, feelings, and expectations. Perspective taking is an evidence-based approach to increase the human connectedness that facilitates empathy and reduces racial biases, but interventions promoting it have not been tested in ICUs. In Aim 1, we will assess the feasibility of implementing the intervention and collecting data. In Aim 2, we will assess differential experiences with the intervention and residual unmet emotional support needs between Black and White families.

To achieve these aims, experienced mentors will guide me and I will train in: pilot trials, racial disparities research, and qualitative methods. The research and training activities will help prepare me for a career as an independent palliative care researcher focused on studying communication, family emotional distress, and equitable emotional support. Rich research environments at Cedars-Sinai and the UCLA CTSI will facilitate research and training activities. Building on this award, I will seek a K23 to conduct a fully-powered efficacy trial of the refined intervention.

Matthew Modes, MD, MPP, MS is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Modes received his medical degree and public policy degree from the University of Michigan. He completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Chicago and pulmonary and critical care medicine fellowship at the University of Washington. At the University of Washington, he completed three years of T32-funded palliative care research training at the UW Cambia Palliative Care Center for Excellence. He received his MS in epidemiology at the University of Washington. His research focuses on enhancing equitable emotional support for families of critically ill patients.