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The CHRonicle | August 2019

Items of Note

CHR Director Lucy Savitz expands leadership presence across national research organizations

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National Academy of Medicine

More than 3,000 attendees from around the world descended on Washington, DC in early June for the annual AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting (ARM) to discuss the health policy and health system implications of new research findings. The ARM brings together the leading experts at the intersection of health, health care, and health policy to share important findings and showcase the latest research on how the health system works, what it costs, and how to improve it.

CHR Director Lucy Savitz, PhD, MBA, was a pre-conference speaker on a panel entitled “Methods Workshop: Addressing Real-World Challenges in Evaluation of Complex Interventions in Learning Health Systems." She also was part of an ARM panel on “Science Around SDOH: As We Collect this Data in Delivery System Settings, When Should There be a Therapeutic Response?” In addition, several others CHR investigators and researchers, including Matthew Banegas, PhD, MPH; Rachel Gold. PhD, MPH; and David Mosen, PhD, MPH, presented abstracts on a variety of studies.

Later that month, Lucy Savitz spoke at the Regenstrief Institute in at Indianapolis, IN about the role of Implementation Science in the development of Learning Healthcare Systems.

Earlier in the spring, she also presented on “Proposed best practices for analysis, interpretation, and reporting of existing data to promote continuous learning and improvement" at the National Academy of Medicine's Digital Learning and Clinical Effectiveness Research Collaboratives meeting in Washington, DC. In addition to Lucy, other speakers at this session included Steven Asch, Stanford University; Jerry Sheehan, National Library of Medicine; and Paul Tang, IBM.


Harvard genetics expert Ting Wu to deliver 2019 Saward Lecture

2019 Saward Speaker

Dr. Ting Wu, PhDprofessor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of the Personal Genetics Education Project, will be the 2019 Saward Lecture speaker on Tuesday, October 22 at the Newmark Theater in downtown Portland.

Wu, 64, has promoted the need for wider discussion about her field—beyond the closed doors of scientists’ labs—for more than a decade. Today, she says, informed public discussion of genetics is more urgent than ever before.

Rapid advances in gene-editing technology—especially Crispr-Cas9, a tool that allows scientists to insert, modify or delete genes not only in an individual’s DNA but potentially in the DNA of future generations—gives scientists tremendous power to change the way that life progresses. “All people need to have a voice in how genetics is used,” Wu says.

In recent years, Wu and her organization’s small team of teachers, scientists and community activists have stepped up their efforts to raise awareness and spark dialogue. She is particularly interested in reaching out to underrepresented populations, including people of color, who often end up getting left out of conversations about genetic technology.

Free tickets for this year’s Saward Lecture will be available later this summer. Check the CHR website for details.


Erin LeBlanc and Greg Nichols present studies at the American Diabetes Association's 79th Scientific Sessions


The Center for Health Research was recently a participating site for the largest ever clinical trial to explore the impact of Vitamin D supplementation on people with prediabetes. CHR was the second largest clinical site in the multi-year study, with 269 Oregonians participating over four years. Senior Investigator Erin LeBlanc, MD, MPH co-presented the findings with researchers from Tufts Medical Center at the American Diabetes Association annual Scientific Sessions in San Francisco in June. The results, which indicated there was no significant evidence that Vitamin D supplements lower the risk of diabetes in the general prediabetes population, were published concurrently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

At CHR, the study had both a high recruitment and high retention rate. “There is a lot of interest in Vitamin D and what it can impact and not impact,” said LeBlanc. “This was a well-conducted study of participants who had prediabetes and who were very personally engaged in the outcomes of the research.”

Distinguished Investigator Greg Nichols, PhD also presented at the ADA Scientific Sessions, speaking on the study “Contributions of Chronic Kidney Disease and Cardiovascular Disease to Medical Costs of Type 2 Diabetes.” In the study, Nichols and researchers compared annual costs of T2D patients with and without chronic kidney disease (CKD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The study used the electronic medical records of 37,684 Kaiser Permanente Northwest members with T2D.  


Rachel Gold shares her social determinants of health portfolio at an OCHINinc. grand round


Senior investigator Rachel Gold, PhD, MPH focuses on the use of health information technology to address health disparities and improve care quality in safety net clinics. She has a joint appointment at the Center for Health Research and at OCHINinc., a nonprofit health care innovation center, where she is the Lead Research Scientist. As part of an online educational grand round, she recently shared her portfolio of research on the social determinants of health (SDH), non-clinical factors such as house, food, or financial insecurity, which can cause stress and profoundly impact one’s health.

Gold is part of a national movement to develop strategies that enable community health centers to document SDH in patients’ electronic health records (EHR). As part of the grand round, she shared the results of ASSESS & DO, a study which sought to identify how best to collect, document, and present SDH-related data in EHR. In a follow-up study, ASCEND, Gold and her CHR team studied methods for helping CHCs adopt and implement the SDH data collection tools. Read more about these studies. Future proposed CHR/OCHIN projects include studying how to optimize using the SDH data in patients’ medical records in order to make referrals to social services they might need.

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