Collaborative work is key to developing sustainable public health solutions and improving population health outcomes. This weekly series spotlights one SPH faculty member who advances public health through collaborations within the field and across sectors.
Can you talk about your research interests in healthcare organization and delivery, and cancer screening and treatment?
I am a cancer survivor. I still remember the conversation with my oncologist after my treatments were finished. She asked me to go do something special with the gift (a second chance at life) I had been given that so many people did not. I never forgot that conversation and while it took me a few years to figure out how I could add some value to cancer care, once I figured it out I haven’t looked back.
From a research perspective, I’m interested primarily in two things: vulnerable populations and healthcare organizations. So, what better way to help oncology care than by trying to understand what types of organizations provide the best cancer care? More specifically, under what circumstances (e.g., what are the best policies and practices of high-performing cancer care providers) do these organizations flourish the most?
That is why I am so proud of the work I am a part of that is funded by the American Cancer Society. We have a $1 million grant focused on breast cancer screening in Appalachia. Our study has 3 phases: (1) a survey of breast cancer screening centers in Appalachia that is focused on understanding their current operational and outreach practices and policies, (2) Medicare claims analysis that will identify screening rates in rural counties, (3) as a result of these two first parts of the study, we will then interview a set staff from several high and low performing screening centers to better understand qualitatively how and why they are different. This research excites me and I enjoy our weekly progress meetings as we are final starting to dig into the survey data that was recently collected.
The other parts of my research that focus on evaluation are focused on understanding how new, innovative programs are being implemented and whether they are effective (or not!). I am currently the Lead Evaluator on a $10 million HRSA CoIIN grant. We are looking at programs being implemented in 10 states aimed at improving care for children with medical complexity. It is amazing to see how different the challenges are in each state and the complex federal, state, and organizational infrastructures required to care for these very sick children. Moreover, I am the Principal Investigator for the ARWorks Medicaid waiver evaluation. We are currently in the beginning phases of this evaluation, so there is less to share now. However, it fits into the topic of vulnerable populations because we are evaluating a program aimed at innovating within the Arkansas Medicaid program.
How is collaborative research integral to your work, and can you discuss one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?
Collaborative partnerships are the cornerstone to performing meaningful research in public health. One of the most recent and important collaborative partnerships I’ve formed is with my healthcare management colleagues from 6 universities across the country. Shortly after we shifted from in-person to remote learning, I reached out to them and we quickly created two studies focusing on understanding the student and faculty perspectives on the transition. This professional collaboration has meaningfully impacted our ability to (1) broaden our perspective on the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare management faculty and students across the country, (2) helped us as program directors and faculty to quickly share best practices, and (3) to find better ways to connect with our students. The findings of these studies are helping us build a fact base that will inform our planning for teaching in the hybrid format this fall. At the end of the day, it’s also a lot of fun to work on meaningful projects with your friends from across the nation!
While I’ve recently (January 2020) taken on the role of director for all SPH Dual-Degree programs, I have been in this role with the MBA/MPH program for about two years now. I believe that the partnership that SPH and Questrom have developed is fantastic. I work closely with Ned Rimer (my counterpart at Questrom) and their advising guru Brad Czarnowski. We hold advising sessions together, recruitment events, and even squeeze in a lunch from time-to-time just to catch up. This collaboration has helped us remove program barriers when they arise and work collaboratively to restructure the program when that needs to be done too. Ned and I have developed an open line of communication and we both have the same top priority—students first. We make sure that no matter what the issue is on either side, we always ask, “What’s best for our students?” Dual-degree programs are complex because these students are spanning boundaries with their degrees, but we also have multiple, somewhat independently-functioning Schools to understand. But, by putting the needs of our students first, we seem to always come up with a solution that works.
“Chris is known nationally as a superb healthcare systems thinker with expertise in large-scale evaluation research. But to us in HLPM, he’s an innovator in healthcare management education, and the person who always steps up to take on the extra work, to make the extra effort.”
Michael Stein, chair and professor in the Department of Health Law, Policy & Management