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Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion

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Carolyn Thorpe, PhD, MPH

Picture of Carolyn T. Thrope

CHERP COIN Investigator

Core Investigator and Research Health Scientist, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

Co-Director, Advanced Fellowship in Medication Safety and Pharmacy Outcomes, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

Associate Professor, University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy


Carolyn Thorpe, PhD, MPH, is a tenured Associate Professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy. She holds a joint appointment as Core Investigator with the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

Dr. Thorpe leads the VA-funded study, "Use and costs of low-value health services by Veterans in VA and non-VA settings."

As a pharmaceutical health services researcher with a focus on geriatric populations, Dr. Thorpe's federally-funded research program aims to improve the health of older, complex patients with multiple chronic conditions, through studies on the quality and safety of prescribing, as well as medication adherence. Her interests are driven broadly by a desire to improve treatment decisions, care delivery, and day-to-day illness management for older persons who are faced with the demands of managing multiple conditions simultaneously, often in context of diminished capacity (e.g., cognitive impairment) and a lacking evidence base regarding optimal treatment. A current focus of this work aims to elucidate real-world patterns of deprescribing of medications with increased risks and/or reduced benefits in older adults with limited life expectancy and/or advanced dementia, and the impact of deprescribing on patient-centered outcomes. Much of this work is highly policy-relevant, as it is aimed at improving care and outcomes for two of the largest populations of older adults who use federal health benefits: 1) U.S. military Veterans seeking healthcare in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and 2) Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries. In addition, because older patients with multiple chronic conditions often rely on loved ones to help with day-to-day illness management and accessing medical care, caregiving and dyadic illness management has been a cross-cutting theme of this work.

Methodologically, Dr. Thorpe has expertise in secondary analysis of existing administrative and clinical data (e.g., medical claims, prescription drug records, electronic health records, federal surveys) and observational study designs to compare the effectiveness and safety of different treatment options. She also is well-versed in survey research, scale development, and qualitative methods, and often uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches in her studies.

Dr. Thorpe is a highly active research mentor, and over the past decade has served as the primary or co-mentor of 10 graduate students, 9 postdoctoral fellows, 5 junior faculty, and numerous pharmacy students and residents engaged in research. She also currently serves as Co-Director of the VA Postdoctoral Pharmacy Fellowship in Medication Safety and Pharmacy Outcomes, which is a collaboration of CHERP and the national VA Center for Medication Safety within VA Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) Services and is designed to train pharmacists in research and quality improvement.Dr. Thorpe completed a VA HSR&D Post-doctoral Research fellowship at the Center for Health Services Research, Durham VA Medical Center after obtaining her PhD in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of North Carolina, her MPH at George Washington University, and her BA at the University of Michigan.

Research Areas
Quality and safety of prescribing for medically complex older adults (e.g., nursing home residents, patients with life-limiting conditions, individuals with dementia)
Real-world patterns and health outcomes of de-prescribing medications with questionable benefit or increased harms
Reducing the use of low-value health services
Dual VA and non-VA health system use
Conceptualization and measurement of medication nonadherence
Healthcare utilization, quality of care, and appropriate medication use in ANCA-associated vasculitis
Caregiving and dyadic illness management
Use of claims and electronic health care records for health services research and comparative effectiveness/safety research
Scale development