Director's letter


Mary L. Durham, PhD

Vice President/Research, Kaiser Permanente
Director, Center for Health Research

Northwest | Hawaii

Call me biased, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a field as meaningful and satisfying as health research. Contributing to the scientific literature, collaborating with researchers around the world, and helping to shape government guidelines and policy are among the most gratifying aspects of this work. Above all, though, I believe we are driven by the potential to make an impact on human lives. We know that every day, in ways both incremental and transformative, we are using the tools of science to advance knowledge that improves health and medicine in ways that people can feel.

And because we are part of the Kaiser Permanente research community, we have a special focus on helping fulfill the KP mission of making lives better in the communities it serves.


In this newsletter, you’ll read about the real-world impact of several recent and ongoing CHR studies. One of these studies, led by Gloria Coronado, found that breast cancer screening rates in the Latino community can be significantly improved when specially trained community workers called promotoras make personal visits to women who are due for screening. This study dovetailed with a screening outreach program in the same population conducted by Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit.

You’ll also read about the major role we’re playing in a nationwide diabetes trial that aims to determine which combination of drugs is most effective in treating type 2 diabetes. When the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases saw that its recruitment efforts for this trial were lagging, they turned to CHR. The wealth of data in Kaiser Permanente’s electronic medical record system, combined with the expertise of our staff, have made Kaiser Permanente Northwest one of the study’s top-performing recruitment sites. This study holds great potential to help countless people manage their diabetes better and reduce their risk of complications.

We are also featuring a moving personal narrative from Ginger Hanson, a CHR research associate who spent one day exchanging messages with a colorectal cancer patient as part of a “patient empathy experience” organized by the online community Smart Patients. Dr. Hanson not only asked insightful questions and listened to her partner’s story with compassion, but she also shared her own experience as a recent breast cancer survivor. Ginger, thank you so much for sharing your story with your partner—and with us.

I hope you enjoy reading these stories and learning about just a few of the ways that our research is touching people’s lives.

Mary L. Durham, PhD

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