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Programs | Penn PORTAL: University of Pennsylvania Patient-Oriented Research and Training to Accelerate Learning

Penn PORTAL: University of Pennsylvania Patient-Oriented Research and Training to Accelerate Learning


Penn PORTAL Logo

Penn PORTAL is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to accelerate progress toward an integrated Learning Health System (LHS) at Penn and in the wider Philadelphia region. The program is a collaborative effort across many centers including the Palliative and Advanced Illness Research (PAIR) Center, the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, the Penn Implementation Science Center (PISCE), the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Safety (CHIPS), the Penn Center for Health Equity Advancement (CHEA), and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI).

For general inquiries, please send us an email.

LHS Pathways

Penn PORTAL is a P30 program (P30HS029745) uniting behavioral, data, and implementation scientists from Penn’s Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Engineering, and Business (Wharton) to support the research and training opportunities of the LHS Scientists. These experts are joined by leaders in the design, analysis, equity, and ethics of health services research studies; clinical operations leaders; and longstanding community partners in the Philadelphia region.

The Penn PORTAL program provides two pathways for research and training in Learning Health System science: Science Investigator and Clinician Leader. Additional limited training opportunities are offered to non-Penn Medicine employees through an Affiliate Scholar program.

Scientist Investigator

Directed toward early-career clinician- and non-clinician investigators seeking to become independent and externally funded LHS scientists.

Clinician Leader

Directed toward clinically-oriented faculty and other health care professionals who are interested in pursuing training and mentorship in LHS science.

Program Overview

Research & Training Opportunities1 (2 years)Scientist InvestigatorClinician Leader
Formal didactic training in LHS sciencexx
Formal didactic training in leadership developmentx
Recommendations for targeted coursework in research methods, grant writing, and pragmatic clinical trials or healthcare quality & safety, systems, and leadershipx
Recommendations for targeted coursework in applied clinical informatics for quality improvement and implementation; leadership, engagement, and research managementx
LHS Design Studios with mentorship in both research and operationsxx
Participation in the LHS Seminar Series and the Implementation Science Institutexx
Development and completion of a mentored LHS research project2x
Development and completion of a quality and/or operational improvement project*x
Access to consultants in equity, community engagement, ethics, research, and data analysis for research projectsxx
Access to staff support from the PAIR Center and Nudge Unit for conducting LHS research projectsxx
Access to staff support from the CHIPS center for leading LHS QI projectsx
1Affiliate Scholars from outside of Penn Medicine have access to the LHS Design Studios and LHS Seminar Series.
2These research projects will be in AHRQ/PCORI priority areas and not restricted to serious illness care.


Cycle 1

Congratulations to the Penn PORTAL Cycle 1 LHS Clinician Leaders and LHS Scientist Investigators! Learn more about our inaugural awardees below.

Headshot of Dr. Renee Betancourt

Renee Betancourt, MD

LHS Pathway

Dr. Betancourt is the Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health; she is also the Faculty Director of the Health Equity Curriculum at Perelman School of Medicine. With an overarching goal of working to eliminate health inequity, Dr. Betancourt’s LHS quality improvement project will focus on patients with chronic kidney disease at Penn Family Care and is titled, “Streamlining evidence-based chronic kidney disease primary care to improve care and health equity.”

Headshot of Dr. Eric Bressman

Eric Bressman, MD, MSHP

LHS Pathway

Dr. Bressman is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine and is strongly interested in promoting safe transitions of care after hospital discharge. Dr. Bressman’s LHS research project, titled “Mobility-informed dynamic risk monitoring to guide transitional care support for older adults,” will focus on the building blocks for improving transitioning older adults from the hospital to their home.

Headshot of Dr. Kyra O'Brien

Kyra O’Brien, MD

LHS Pathway

Dr. O’Brien is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and an MSHP candidate; her research interests are in improving and transforming care delivery for people with dementia. Starting with Penn Medicine primary care, Dr. O’Brien’s LHS research project is designed to develop an effective and equitable pathway for early detection of cognitive impairment. Her project is titled, “Evaluating strategies to improve cognitive assessments in primary care.”

Headshot of Dr. Denise Xu

Denise Xu, MD

LHS Pathway

Dr. Xu is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, the Assistant Program Director for the Neurology Residency, and Director for the Neurology Sub-Internship at the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Xu is interested in delirium prevention and in improving sleep quality for patients admitted to a Penn Medicine hospital. Her LHS quality improvement project is titled, “Restoring Sleep for Inpatients.”

How to Apply

Applications for the Penn PORTAL program occur annually in winter, with appointments by July 1. More information will be posted in late fall 2024 for the 2025 funding cycle.

Financial Support

Please see the 2024 funding opportunity announcement for full details of the financial support offered under the two LHS Scientist pathways, the expected effort devoted to program activities, and the expected number of awards annually.

Eligibility Requirements

Please see the 2024 funding opportunity announcement for full details of eligibility criteria for the two LHS Scientist pathways. Please also note that the funded LHS Scientists must have appointments at Penn Medicine by July 1 of the funding cycle and research projects are expected to be completed at Penn Medicine.


Penn PORTAL has three integrated cores, an equity and community engagement unit led by the Penn Center for Health Equity Advancement (CHEA), a steering committee, internal and external advisory boards, and governmental, community, and health system partnerships across Philadelphia.

Administrative Director

Vanessa Madden

Program Manager

Shira Blady

Principal Investigators

Drs. Scott Halpern, Meghan Lane-Fall, and Kit Delgado

Research Education Core Leaders

Drs. Rachel Werner and Jennifer Myers

Research and Data Analysis Core Leaders

Drs. Michael Harhay and Kevin Johnson

Equity and Community Engagement Unit

Dr. Jaya Aysola