• Ronit Elk, PhD has recently joined the University of Alabama, Birmingham as Professor in the School of Medicine; Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care, and as Associate Director of the Southeast Institute for Innovation in Palliative and Supportive Care. Her prior position was at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Using Community Based Participatory Research, her NIH-funded research focuses on partnering with underserved populations, in particular rural African American communities, to determine effective culturally-based palliative care programs. Her first academic appointment was at the University of Texas in Houston where she was NIH-funded to explore effective interventions for “hard to reach” populations. She served as guest editor, Special Issue on “Palliative and End of Life Care for African Americans,” Journal of Palliative Medicine, Ronit has extensive expertise in grant writing, reviewing and funding; in addition to serving on several NIH Peer Review Committees for over 8 years, she directed the first extramural Cancer Control and Prevention Research at the American Cancer Society from 2001-2011; this included establishing a nationally-recognized cancer health disparities program, and forming a partnership with the National Palliative Care Research Center to establish the first palliative care research funding program in the US

    Personal: Ronit was born in Israel but spent her early life moving from country to country, as her father was Israeli Ambassador to Turkey, India, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. She immigrated to the US over 30 years ago, but still talks with a “funny accent.” She is the proud grandmother of 3 year old twins, a boy and a girl, who live in Israel.
  • Selected Publications

    Academic Article

    Year Title Altmetric
    2022 Preserving independence among under-resourced older adults in the Southeastern United States: existing barriers and potential strategies for researchInternational Journal for Equity in Health.  21. 2022
    2022 Engaging African American family Caregivers in Developing a Culturally-responsive Interview Guide: A Multiphase Process and ApproachJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  63:e705-e711. 2022
    2022 Response to Jones et al., Top Ten Tips Palliative Care Clinicians Should Know about Delivering Antiracist Care to Black Americans (DOI: 10.1089/jpm.2021.0502)Journal of Palliative Medicine.  25:535-536. 2022
    2022 Community-based participatory research in palliative care: a social justice imperative 2022
    2022 Piloting the Sexual and Gender Minority Cancer Curricular Advances for Research and Education (SGM Cancer CARE) Workshop: Research Training in the Service of SGM Cancer Health EquityJournal of Cancer Education2022
    2022 Respecting Faith, Hope, and Miracles in African American Christian Patients at End-of-Life: Moving from Labeling Goals of Care as “Aggressive” to Providing Equitable Goal-Concordant CareJournal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities2022
    2021 Disparities and Racism Experienced Among Older African Americans Nearing End of LifeCurrent Geriatrics Reports.  10:157-166. 2021
    2021 The intersection of racism, discrimination, bias, and homophobia toward African American sexual minority patients with cancer within the health care systemCancer.  127:3500-3504. 2021
    2021 Can you hear me now?: Improving palliative care access through telehealthResearch in Nursing and Health.  44:226-237. 2021
    2021 Engaging Social Justice Methods to Create Palliative Care Programs That Reflect the Cultural Values of African American Patients with Serious Illness and Their Families: A Path Towards Health Equity 2021
    2021 Protecting our Elders and Developing Equitable Policies During Public Health Emergencies: Ethical Recommendations.Current Geriatrics Reports.  10:133-140. 2021
    2020 Improving adherence to adjuvant hormonal therapy among disadvantaged women diagnosed with breast cancer in south carolina: Proposal for a multimethod studyJMIR Research Protocols.  9. 2020
    2020 Community Tele-pal: A community-developed, culturally based palliative care tele-consult randomized controlled trial for African American and White Rural southern elders with a life-limiting illnessTrials.  21. 2020
    2020 Responding to Healthcare Disparities and Challenges with Access to Care during COVID-19Health Equity.  4:117-128. 2020
    2020 Forging a new frontier: Providing palliative care to people with cancer in rural and remote areasJournal of Clinical Oncology.  38:963-973. 2020
    2020 Developing and Testing the Feasibility of a Culturally Based Tele-Palliative Care Consult Based on the Cultural Values and Preferences of Southern, Rural African American and White Community Members: A Program by and for the CommunityHealth Equity.  4:52-83. 2020
    2019 Reducing disparities in the quality of palliative care for older african americans through improved advance care planning: Study design and protocolJournal of Palliative Medicine.  22:S90-S100. 2019
    2018 Social Inequalities in Palliative Care for Cancer Patients in the United States: A Structured ReviewSeminars in Oncology Nursing.  34:303-315. 2018
    2018 Culture and Palliative Care: Preferences, Communication, Meaning, and Mutual Decision MakingJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  55:1408-1419. 2018
    2018 Our Differences Make Us StrongerJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  55:1398-1399. 2018
    2017 The potential of palliative care for patients with respiratory diseasesBreathe.  13:278-289. 2017
    2017 The Implementation of Measuring What Matters in Research and Practice: Series CommentaryJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  54:772-775. 2017
    2017 Operationalizing the Measuring What Matters Spirituality Quality Metric in a Population of Hospitalized, Critically Ill Patients and Their Family MembersJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  53:650-655. 2017
    2017 A Community-Developed, Culturally-Based Palliative Care Program for African American and White Rural Elders with a Life-Limiting Illness: A Program By The Community for the CommunityNarrative Inquiry in Bioethics.  7:36-40. 2017
    2017 Concordance Between Veterans' Self-Report and Documentation of Surrogate Decision Makers: Implications for Quality MeasurementJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  53:1-4. 2017
    2017 Full Collection of Personal NarrativesNarrative Inquiry in Bioethics.  7:4-40. 2017
    2017 Opioid Prescription Drug Use and Expenditures in US Outpatient Physician Offices: Evidence from Two Nationally Representative Surveys. 2017
    2016 Adherence to Measuring What Matters Items When Caring for Patients With Hematologic Malignancies Versus Solid TumorsJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  52:775-782. 2016
    2016 Assessing Emotional Suffering in Palliative Care: Use of a Structured Note Template to Improve DocumentationJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  52:1-7. 2016
    2016 Concordance of Advance Care Plans With Inpatient Directives in the Electronic Medical Record for Older Patients Admitted From the Emergency DepartmentJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  51:647-651. 2016
    2016 Adherence to Measuring What Matters Measures Using Point-of-Care Data Collection Across Diverse Clinical SettingsJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  51:497-503. 2016
    2016 Feeling Heard and Understood: A Patient-Reported Quality Measure for the Inpatient Palliative Care SettingJournal of Pain and Symptom Management.  51:150-154. 2016
    2016 LGBT Populations and Cancer: Is It an Ignored Epidemic?LGBT Health.  3:1-2. 2016
    2016 The first step is recognizing, acknowledging, and respecting the inequity, disrespect, and disregard our African American patients have experiencedJournal of Palliative Medicine.  19:124-125. 2016
    2015 Systematic review of palliative care in the rural setting 2015
    2015 National Institutes of health pathways to prevention workshop: Advancing the research on myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndromeACP journal club.  162:860-865. 2015
    2009 Current status of palliative care-clinical implementation, education, and researchCA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.  59:327-335. 2009
    1999 Use of monetary reinforcers by cocaine-dependent outpatientsJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment.  17:229-236. 1999
    1999 Behavioral and emotional problems among children of cocaine- and opiate- dependent parentsJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  38:421-428. 1999
    1998 Context modulates effects of nicotine abstinence on human cooperative respondingExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.  6:390-398. 1998
    1998 Context modulates effects of nicotine abstinence on human cooperative responding.Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.  6:390-398. 1998
    1998 Medication take-home doses and contingency managementExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.  6:162-168. 1998
    1998 Medication take-home doses and contingency management.Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.  6:162-168. 1998
    1998 Cessation of cocaine use during pregnancy: Effects of contingency management interventions on maintaining abstinence and complying with prenatal careAddictive Behaviors.  23:57-64. 1998
    1998 Retention, HIV risk, and illicit drug use during treatment: Methadone dose and visit frequencyAmerican Journal of Public Health.  88:34-39. 1998
    1997 Baseline assessment, study entry, and stabilization: double-blind clinical trials in drug dependence.NIDA research monograph.  175:158-181. 1997
    1997 Behavioral interventions: Effective and adaptable for the treatment of pregnant cocaine-dependent womenJournal of Drug Issues.  27:625-658. 1997
    1997 Social, ethical and practical aspects of perinatal substance useJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment.  14:481-486. 1997
    1996 AIDS-related knowledge and high-risk behaviors of pregnant, substance-dependent womenAmerican Journal on Addictions.  5:292-300. 1996
    1995 Behavioral treatment of cocaine-dependent pregnant women and TB-exposed patientsAddictive Behaviors.  20:533-542. 1995
    1995 Fluoxetine is ineffective for treatment of cocaine dependence or concurrent opiate and cocaine dependence: Two placebo-controlled, double-blind trialsJournal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.  15:163-174. 1995
    1994 Cessation of cocaine use during pregnancy: A preliminary comparisonAddictive Behaviors.  19:697-702. 1994
    1994 Dr. Elk and colleagues' responseJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment.  11:61-62. 1994
    1993 Clinicwide and individualized behavioral interventions in drug dependence treatmentNIDA research monograph.  37-72. 1993
    1993 Compliance with tubercolosis treatment in methadone-maintained patients: Behavioral interventionsJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment.  10:371-382. 1993
    1993 A substance-abuse research-treatment clinic: Effective procedures and systemsJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment.  10:459-471. 1993
    1993 Factor stationarity and invariance of the POMS in cocaine patientsPsychopharmacology bulletin.  29:263-267. 1993
    1993 Methadone dosage, cocaine and opiate abuse [5]American Journal of Psychiatry.  150:675. 1993
    1987 The outcome of psychiatric illness. A 2-year follow-up studySouthern African Journal of Critical Care.  72:598-602. 1987
    1986 Admissions to a psychiatric hospital. Factors associated with admission and inpatient careSouthern African Journal of Critical Care.  70:731-734. 1986
    1986 Readmissions to a psychiatric hospital. Outcome on follow-upSouthern African Journal of Critical Care.  70:735-739. 1986
    1986 Depression in schizophrenia: A study of prevalence and treatmentBritish Journal of Psychiatry.  149:228-229. 1986
    1985 Hypertension in the aged - Psychosocial and psychiatric concomitants in a coloured communitySouthern African Journal of Critical Care.  67:1046-1049. 1985
    1985 Hypo-osmolar intravascular volume overload during anaesthesia for transurethral prostatectomy. A report of 2 casesSouthern African Journal of Critical Care.  67:1059-1061. 1985
    1985 A comparison of CATEGO class 'S' schizophrenia in three ethnic groups: Psychiatric manifestationsBritish Journal of Psychiatry.  147:683-687. 1985
    1983 The Coloured elderly in Cape Town. A psychosocial, psychiatric and medical community survey. Part I. Introduction and psychosocial dataSouthern African Journal of Critical Care.  64:1017-1022. 1983
    1983 The Coloured elderly in Cape Town. A psychosocial, psychiatric and medical community survey. Part II. Prevalence of psychiatric disordersSouthern African Journal of Critical Care.  64:1056-1061. 1983
    1983 Life events in Xhosas in Cape TownJournal of Psychosomatic Research.  27:223-231. 1983
    1982 The admission of the elderly to places of care: A socio-psychiatric community surveyPsychological Medicine.  12:159-168. 1982
    1982 The present state examination: Experiences with Xhosa-speaking psychiatric patientsBritish Journal of Psychiatry.  141:143-147. 1982
    1981 Physical and mental incapacity in elderly White persons in Cape Town. A community surveySouthern African Journal of Critical Care.  59:147-149. 1981
    1981 Reasons for referral of the elderly for psychiatric hospitalizationSouthern African Journal of Critical Care.  59:150-152. 1981


    Year Title Altmetric
    2015 Cancer and the LGBT community: Unique perspectives from risk to survivorship 2015


    Year Title Altmetric
    2015 Challenges and recommended solutions to end of life care for Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients diagnosed with cancer with a life-limiting prognosis.  227-259. 2015
    2015 Introduction.  1-6. 2015
    2015 The challenges remain: Needed next steps in alleviating the burden of cancer in the LGBT community.  313-331. 2015

    Research Overview

  • My focus is on determining communities’ cultural values and preferences for care and communication at end of life, and based on this, developing culturally-appropriate programs for underserved elders from different cultures who are facing a serious illness. Using Community Based Participatory Research, I work in full partnership with community members, patients, family members, pastors and hospital staff, in the various rural South Carolina and Alabama communities where I conduct my research. In one 3-year study, we developed a culturally-appropriate palliative care program, tailored to African American and White rural Southern elders. The palliative care consult program, to be delivered via telehealth, has elements that are the same for both groups, as well as elements/preferences that differ significantly between the two ethnic groups. The program will be delivered by the palliative care physician in the manner appropriate to the ethnicity of the patient. This model can be replicated in other ethnic groups and another study is conducting focus groups with patients and caregivers and leaders in Ghana to determine their cultural preferences and values. A similar study will be conducted in 2019 in Puerto Rico, and in Israel with Arab communities in 2020. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first culturally based palliative care program developed in the US. Recently, Dr. Marie Bakitas and I have recently been awarded an R01 to conduct an RCT to test the efficacy of this culturally-based intervention compared to standard care, in African American and White rural elders in rural hospitals in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.
  • Education And Training

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychiatry Residency Program, University of Cape Town 1989
  • Full Name

  • Ronit Elk