Category Archives: Voices from the Field

Oct 1 2014
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New Journal Covers Emerging Field of Health Economics

Deborah Haas-Wilson, PhD, is a visiting professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a member of the editorial board of the forthcoming American Journal of Health Economics. In 1994, she received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Investigator Award in Health Policy Research to study antitrust policy and the transformation of health care markets.

Deborah Haas-Wilson

Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your appointment to the editorial board of the American Journal of Health Economics. Can you tell us about the journal’s mission?

Deborah Haas-Wilson: I am very pleased to be serving on the editorial board of the American Journal of Health Economics (AJHE), along with many distinguished health economists, including Frank Sloan, PhD, who is the editor-in-chief.

A little about the AJHE: The plan is to publish quarterly with the first issue scheduled for the winter of 2015. The mission of the AJHE is to provide a forum for theoretical and empirical analyses of health care systems and health behaviors.

HCB: What topics will the AJHE cover?          

Haas-Wilson: Topics of particular interest include the impact of the Accountable Care Act, pharmaceutical regulation, the supply of medical devices, the increasing obesity rate, the influence of an aging and more diverse population on health care systems, and competition and competition policy in the markets for hospital services, physician services, pharmaceuticals and health care financing.

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Sep 29 2014
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Intimate Partner Violence: What We Tell Our Children Can Make a Difference

A. Monique Clinton-Sherrod, PhD, is a 2008 alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Connections program. She is an RTI research psychologist with extensive experience in prevention research associated with a variety of psychosocial issues.

Monique Clinton-Sherrod

Recently while watching ESPN with my two children, we saw nonstop coverage of the Ray Rice incident, including the video of Mr. Rice violently assaulting Janay Palmer, his then-fiancée. I was peppered with questions from my children. 

“Did he get arrested? Why did he do that? What did she do? Is that something they shouldn’t show on television because it’s private?”

The recurring images and my children’s questions were all the more jarring because I recently lost a sorority sister in a murder-suicide by her former husband. These experiences have served as an unfortunate but teachable moment for my daughter and son, and reinforced the importance of my life’s work—both for my children and for society as a whole. 

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Sep 24 2014
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Helping ‘Care Partners’ Help Patients with Diabetes

Ann-Marie Rosland, MD, MS, is a research scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Center for Clinical Management Research, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars program (2006-2009). She recently received a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Merit Award to test a family engagement intervention for patients with diabetes.

Ann Marie Rosland

Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your Veterans Health Administration (VA) Merit Award! The award recognizes your research into a family engagement intervention in the context of the VA’s patient-centered medical home program. How did your study work, and what did you find?

Ann-Marie Rosland: This study is unique in that we work with family member/patient pairs in managing diabetes. We call these family members “care partners.” This study asks the question:  “How we can best recognize and support the vital roles that patients’ family members often take in the care of chronic illnesses, so these care partners can have the largest positive impact on patients’ health and medical care?”

Our prior work has shown that the majority of people with diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions have a family member who is regularly involved with the care of these conditions. Some help to keep track of medications and refill them, some help to track and manage symptoms or sugar readings, many come to medical appointments and help patients communicate with their medical teams, and some help patients navigate the health care system. In general, patients who have support from family members tend to be more successful at managing chronic illness, particularly with eating healthier and exercising more. Yet patients and family tell us that care partners face barriers in helping with the medical side of care; for example, they can’t easily find out what medications or tests the patient’s medical team is recommending, or what health system programs are available to the patient.

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Sep 22 2014
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Young Adults Offer Suggestions to Improve HealthCare.gov

Charlene A. Wong, MD, is a pediatrician and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  

Charlene Wong

“This plan is $20 to see a primary doctor, and this one is 10 percent coinsurance after deductible—and I just don’t understand that.  What is the deductible to see my primary doctor?” asked a 29-year-old uninsured Philadelphian as she shopped for health insurance on HealthCare.gov in February. 

As she tried to make sense of the plans being offered to her, she realized—as most people who have chosen a health insurance plan for themselves or their families know—that health insurance is complicated.  This young woman found the process particularly challenging and overwhelming as she was choosing her own health insurance for the first time. Though she wished “a good plan could be recommended for me, based on my needs,” she did ultimately select a new health insurance plan on HealthCare.gov.

She was one of 33 young adults, ranging from 19 to 30, who participated in our study at the University of Pennsylvania from January to March 2014.  The study explored the young adult user experience with the federal health insurance exchange website.  We asked these so called “young invincibles” to focus not on the technical failures of the website, which were being covered and criticized extensively by the media, but rather on how the website could be improved to better support them in choosing a health insurance plan that was right for them.  

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Sep 19 2014
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An American in Africa

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Sam Willis, MD, a member of the 1995 class.

Sam Willis

After completing medical school, Sam Willis decided his residency could wait. He wanted to see the world.

So he joined the Peace Corps and spent two years working as a health volunteer in Burkina Faso, one of Africa’s poorest countries. Living among the Burkinabé, in a mud-and-brick house with no running water, Willis learned the native language along with French. Every day, he hauled water back from a well so he could take a bath outdoors.

He talked to the villagers about sanitation, HIV/AIDS prevention, and ways to fight malnutrition. He helped set up a food bank to tide residents over during the summer dry seasons, when the rains stopped and they couldn’t plant crops.

When he came back to the United States, it was with a different worldview.

“Learning to speak another language opened up my mind to understanding how the world works,” says Willis, who today is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and practices family medicine in Houston, Texas, treating patients from disadvantaged communities.

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Sep 17 2014
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Shifting the Dialogue: Considering Ray Rice and Intimate Partner Abuse

Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at Pepperdine University and an associate editor of the journal Psychological Trauma. Bryant-Davis is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee who studies the intersection of trauma and culture. 

Thema Bryant-Davis

The assault perpetrated by Ray Rice, which ended in him dragging his unconscious fiancé, Janay Palmer, off an elevator, has captured wide public attention. Unfortunately, most of the dialogue has focused on blaming and shaming Ms. Palmer and other victims of intimate partner violence for staying in abusive relationships. There has also been an attempt to build sympathy for the perpetrator by questioning whether Rice’s punishment, which went from suspension for two games to permanent dismissal from his team, was fair. The most important questions have received far less attention. Why do abusive partners like Ray Rice abuse their spouses? Why does the public support intimate partner abuse either directly with words and actions or indirectly with their silence? What are the consequences of intimate partner abuse? And how can we stop intimate partner violence?

Partner abuse is an action not caused by the victim’s behavior, substance use, mental illness, or biology (being male).  People choose to abuse their partners emotionally, physically, sexually, verbally and financially to exact control over the person and because they believe they have the right to do so.  

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Sep 12 2014
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Changing the Culture of Health to Prevent Suicide

Alexander Tsai, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a staff psychiatrist in the Massachusetts General Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry, and an honorary lecturer at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda. He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2010-2012), and a member of the core faculty in the Health & Society Scholars program at Harvard University.

Alexander Tsai

When Robin Williams ended his life last month, his suicide sparked a raft of online and print commentary about the dangers of depression and the need to inject more resources into our mental health care system. I strongly agree with these sentiments. After all, as a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, I regularly speak with patients who have been diagnosed with depression or who are actively thinking about ending their lives.

But what if suicide prevention isn’t just about better screening, diagnosis and treatment of depression? What if there were a better way to go about preventing suicides?

It is undeniable that people with mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder are at greater risk for suicidal thinking or suicide attempts. But not everyone with depression commits suicide, and not everyone who has committed suicide suffered from depression. In fact, even though depression is a strong predictor of suicidal thinking, it does not necessarily predict suicide attempts among those who have been thinking about suicide. Instead, among people who are actively thinking about suicide, the mental illnesses that most strongly predict suicide attempts are those characterized by anxiety, agitation and poor impulse control.

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Sep 10 2014
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I Am Who I Am Because of You

Faith Ikarede Atte, RN, MSN, is a Future of Nursing Scholar studying for her PhD at Villanova University, supported by Independence Blue Cross Foundation. The Future of Nursing program is a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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There are things in life so personal and private that when one vocalizes them, there is fear of being judged. It was eleven years ago that I had a personal encounter with myself. It is admittedly odd to look back at the path that I have walked on, now overgrown and distant—yet still so close to my heart.

Eleven years ago is when I lost a sense of who I was in the eyes of society, and I had to look within myself to find my footing. It is during this time that I had arrived from Kenya, full of vigor, light spirited and quick to laughter. I was hungry for knowledge and the sky was the limit.

Little did I know that life was about to teach me a lesson. It became obvious to me that my accent was different. Most immigrants can identify with the situation of being different. The more I spoke, be it in class or in a group of people, the more I felt isolated due to reactions like, “What did you say? Speak up.  Your accent is too thick. I don’t know what you are saying.”

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Sep 8 2014
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Field of Dreams

“In the NFL, you have to be ready for everything,” says Lutul Farrow, MD.

He should know: For more than three years, the orthopedic surgeon was a member of the medical staff for his hometown Cleveland Browns. With Farrow on the sidelines were a nonsurgical sports medicine doctor and an anesthesiologist; in the stands were a paramedic and a dentist. “That was just for our team,” he says.

Farrow currently works with the Yellow Jackets, a Division III team at his college alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University. Because football requires physician coverage at every game, he travels with the Yellow Jackets to games throughout the Ohio Athletic Conference. He’s also the head team physician for the Brunswick High School Blue Devils.

On game day, he has a field-level view of every play—and every injury. “We mostly see strains and sprains,” he says, including hamstring pulls, ankle sprains, and ligament sprains of the knee.

Farrow predicts that the current attention to concussions—most recently the NCAA’s settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by former college players—will change the way the game is played.

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Sep 5 2014
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RWJF Alum Takes on New Role as CEO of Nurse Education Organization

Deborah E. Trautman, PhD, RN, is the new chief executive officer of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Transformation at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Fellows program (2007-2008).

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Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your new position as CEO of AACN! What are your priorities as CEO?

Deborah Trautman: AACN is highly regarded in health care and higher education circles for advancing excellence in nursing education, research, and practice. I am honored to have this unique opportunity to support the organization’s mission and move AACN in strategic new directions. As CEO, I will place a high priority on continuing to increase nursing’s visibility, participation, and leadership in national efforts to improve health and health care. I look forward to working closely with the AACN board, staff, and stakeholders to advocate for programs that support advanced education and leadership development for all nurses, particularly those from underrepresented groups.

HCB: What are the biggest challenges facing nurse education today, and how will AACN address those challenges?

Trautman: Nurse educators today must meet the challenge of preparing a highly competent nursing workforce that is able to navigate a rapidly changing health care environment. As the implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues, health care is moving to adopt new care delivery models that emphasize team-based care, including the medical (health care) home and accountable care organizations.

These care models require closer collaboration among the full spectrum of providers and will impact how health care professionals are prepared for contemporary practice. Nursing needs to re-envision traditional approaches to nursing education and explore how best to leverage the latest research and technology to prepare future registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Greater emphasis should be placed on advancing interprofessional education, uncovering the benefits of competency-based learning, identifying alternatives to traditional clinical-based education, and instilling a commitment to lifelong learning in all new nursing professionals.

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