Alan Jette, director of the Health and Disabilities Research Institute at BUSPH, has been named a member of the Institute of Medicine for his insightful and innovative work in disability assessment.
Election to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is among the highest honors in the fields of medicine, health care and public health, and is a national recognition of meaningful and outstanding professional achievement.
“It’s not something that one ever expects to happen, so when it happens it’s a really wonderful feeling,” Jette said of the honor. The IOM is one of the four National Academies, along with the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Research Council.
“My interest throughout my career has been on the consequence of disease and how it affects the lives of people. In many respects, that’s what disability is,” said Jette, a professor of health policy and management. “It’s really a manifestation of disease and how it impacts the ways in which people are able to live their lives.” Also selected in the Class of 2013 was Brian Jack, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. Jack was selected for his research into the factors influencing hospital readmissions.
Jette’s work on disability assessment brings a scientific approach to quantifying and studying the ways that physical, mental and emotional disabilities can take a personal toll. Measuring the effects of disabilities can enable better treatment, and in some cases, prevention, Jette said.
“Even in the face of disease, accident or injury, you can still have a really high quality of life. That’s been the focus of all my research — whether measurement, epidemiology, or clinical trials — the intention has been to try to reduce the impact of disease on the lives of people,” Jette said.
New IOM members are elected by the 1,700 current active members through a selective process. BUSPH Dean Robert Meenan said he was both “pleased and proud” that Jette has been elected to the IOM, as Jette is “very worthy of this national recognition.”
“Alan and I have overlapping professional interests in musculoskeletal disability, so I have followed his work closely for over 30 years. He is a long-time leader in the field of disability assessment, and his work has informed and transformed the field. Thanks to Alan’s insightful studies, disability has become better understood by becoming more measurable, and his findings have led to important changes in major government policies and programs. His presence on the SPH faculty has also served to advance our understanding of disability as a public health problem, for both developed and developing nations,” Meenan said.
The IOM has been involved in research on disability for several decades. In 2007, Jette chaired an IOM panel that produced The Future of Disability in America, an update and expansion of the group’s 1991 landmark IOM report, Disability in America.
While the study of disability assessment isn’t new to the IOM, Jette said it remains a fairly unexplored area of research within public health. He hopes his election to the IOM might bring more visibility to disability as a public health concern, especially since much of his research was conducted with colleagues who have helped establish the field of disability assessment.
“If you look at my work over my career, nearly all of it has been with other colleagues. So this is recognition of the work that I’ve done with a whole range of collaborators,” Jette said.
Said Meenan, “Alan’s election to the IOM disproves the old adage that nice guys don’t finish first. He is both a first-class researcher and a certifiably nice guy.”