By Matthew Biddle
Published April 26, 2023
Matthew Cosmai, a master’s student in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, will be honored by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) for his work on an initiative to improve medication safety with UB’s Team Alice.
Cosmai will receive the 2023 Clinical Student Research Award for his project, titled “Educational Videos to Inform Older Adults About Medication Safety.” The award recognizes the individual who submits the most outstanding student abstract for the conference.
He will accept his award on May 5 during the national organization’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Long Beach, Calif. In addition, Cosmai will present during poster sessions at both the AGS conference and the U.S. Deprescribing Research Network’s annual meeting earlier in the week.
The project was part of the Master of Social Work student’s field internship with Team Alice, an interprofessional research, education and advocacy program under UB’s Center for Successful Aging. The collaboration was inspired by the untimely death of Alice Brennan from preventable medication errors and aims to protect others from medication-related harm across the continuum of care.
Cosmai chose Team Alice for his advanced year field placement because it allowed him to work closely with experts from a variety of health care backgrounds — and represent social work in those conversations.
“Social workers are uniquely positioned to engage diversity and difference of practice,” says Cosmai, who also holds bachelor’s degrees in communication and psychology from UB. “Especially here at the UB School of Social Work, our training is in trauma-informed care, and with that perspective, we can shape research design and how other health care professionals might approach this work.”
Team Alice appreciated Cosmai’s viewpoint as a social worker, too. During his internship, Cosmai contributed to research that analyzed medication-related conversations between primary care providers and older adults using a trauma-informed framework. He also wrote about how social workers can assist during an unexpected hospital stay in an article for the National Council on Aging.
“Matthew has been extremely valuable to our multidisciplinary team by being the only internal social work professional. He has offered his expertise on trauma-informed approaches and principles incorporated into the deprescribing process,” says Robert G. Wahler Jr., PharmD, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Wahler co-leads Team Alice with Ranjit Singh, MB BChir, associate professor of family medicine and director of the Primary Care Research Institute in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, and Alice’s daughter, Mary Brennan-Taylor, who has become a nationally recognized patient safety advocate since her mother’s death.
AGS is recognizing Cosmai for a project in which he analyzed the effectiveness of an educational video series that Team Alice released in 2020. Using qualitative data from patients at two clinics, Cosmai and two researchers — Alexandria Wahler and Jennifer Stoll, both from the Jacobs School — identified themes and evaluated the videos’ content and delivery.
Cosmai says his field internship shifted his focus from macro practice — where social workers aim to create change in policy, research and programs — to the micro level, where social workers help individuals one-on-one.
“Before Team Alice, I was very much a macro person, but I’m graduating from the MSW program with a job at Horizons Health Services, where I’ll be working with and advocating for patients,” Cosmai says. “It’s really changed my perspective and understanding of the vital importance of direct practice.”