Along with a wide variety of faculty, researchers, programmers, and staff, the department of health care policy (HCP) houses various fellows and trainees. Postdoctoral research fellows train with faculty mentors, contributing to grant-funded research and readying themselves for their academic job search. Trainees are funded through specific training grants and contribute to research focusing on the scope of the grant. Fellows in the Marshall J. Seidman Fellowship Program collaborate with junior faculty, assisting on their research and publications. With expertise on topics spanning from machine learning to mental health, these fellows and trainees are a critical part of the department and its innovative projects and research.
Postdoctoral research fellows in the department of health care policy are hired for a two-year term immediately following their graduation from a PhD program. These fellows have not yet launched their academic job search and are mentored by faculty members who share common research interests. They contribute to faculty research while also producing their own publications and readying themselves for their first academic position. Fellows are supported by grants received by their mentoring faculty member.
Focusing on the causes, courses, and treatment of psychiatric disorders, postdoctoral research fellow Hannah Ziobrowski, PhD, collaborates with McNeil Family Professor of Health Care Policy Ronald C. Kessler, PhD, on projects examining the epidemiology of mental disorders, the impact of stress and trauma across the life course, and the influence of
psychiatric comorbidities on the development and treatment of mental disorders.
“I was drawn to the rigorous methodological approaches by the faculty at HCP and the ongoing cutting-edge research in the areas I am interested in,” Ziobrowski explains. She hopes that her time in the department will help find answers to questions related to the different trajectories of psychopathology after trauma, identifying who is at high risk for these trajectories, and how we can intervene to effectively prevent and treat psychiatric disorders.
Victor Puac-Polanco, MD, DrPH, a Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellow, also works alongside Kessler. Their collaboration involves investigating the translational implications of detecting and treating behavioral health problems. They recently began a large project focusing on United States military veterans. The initial analysis assesses how assignment to settings and treatment types differ by severity among patients with major depression in the Veterans Health Administration. Puac-Polanco joined the department in the summer of 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Starting at a new institution is always exciting, but what has made a significant impression are HCP’s efforts in making sure that all its affiliates continue to interact and exchange ideas virtually,” Puac-Polanco says, “I became enthusiastic about working at HCP because of the department’s commitment to preparing postdoctoral scientists from underrepresented minorities in academia to develop cutting-edge research and independent careers.”
The department currently has two trainee research fellows supported by the National Institute of Mental Health T32 grant received by Henry J. Kaiser Professor of Health Care Policy Haiden A. Huskamp, PhD. This trainee grant focuses on research surrounding mental health services and policy research.
For Charley Willison, PhD, MPH, MA, her time as an NIMH trainee research fellow has been pivotal to her career. Collaborating with Huskamp and Margaret T. Morris Professor of Health Economics Richard G. Frank, PhD, Willison’s work focuses on health policies that are designed and delivered at the local level.
“My time with the professors in the department of health care policy and at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health Initiative on Health and Homelessness has influenced my work in many ways,” says Willison, “It has further emphasized the need for coordination across many areas of research on homelessness, concrete policy solutions, and the importance of interdisciplinary research to tackle complex policy problems.”
During her time in the department, Willison has published studies in major journals including The Journal of Public Health Policy and BMC Health Services Research. Willison’s upcoming book “Ungoverned and Out of Sight: Public Health and the Political Crisis of Homelessness in the US” will focus on research she has conducted in the department. Willison will join the faculty of Cornell University Public Health as an assistant professor in August 2021.
NIMH trainee research fellow Sadiq Patel, PhD, utilizes big data to answer questions related to technology, access to care, and health equity. Working with Huskamp and associate professor of health care policy Ateev Mehrotra, MD, MPH, Patel examines whether technology, specifically telemedicine, improves access to care among disadvantaged populations.
“The faculty and their scholarship, the use of innovative and rigorous quantitative methods, and the endless access to US population-level data originally attracted me to the department of health care policy,” Patel says, “I was very interested in collaborating with faculty whose research informs clinical practice and state and federal policy.”
On the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Harvard Law School, Marshall J. Seidman provided the department of health care policy with an endowment designated to support research related to health care costs and quality. Along with creating a university-wide lecture series, this endowment gave birth to the Marshall J. Seidman Fellowship Program. Through this program, recent PhD graduates join the department to sharpen their research skills and increase their employment capital by directly assisting junior faculty with research, publications, and manuscripts. The department of health care policy currently has three Marshall J. Seidman Fellows, with five previous fellows now working as faculty, researchers, and economists.
insurance design and outcome differences across the public and private versions of Medicaid and Medicare. Vabson and Layton collaborate on projects that investigate health insurance payment systems and markets, and how health insurance plan design impacts utilization and outcomes.
“The most impactful projects that I’ve worked on while at HCP are the studies comparing utilization and outcomes between Medicaid and Medicare, and between different state programs within Medicaid,” says Vabson, “As part of these studies, we try to attribute these differences to specific policy features to be able to identify the policies leading to the best outcomes and thereby give policymakers actionable insights.”
Seidman fellow Lindsey Patterson, PhD, is a health economist currently focusing on health care delivery and payment systems. Working with assistant professor of health care policy and medicine Zirui Song, MD, PhD, Patterson collaborates on several projects aimed at understanding how health care providers respond to payment changes, including examining physician responses to large fee cuts for specific procedures and
studying the largest attempt to-date at bundling payments for hospital outpatient services.
“Being at HCP offers an intellectually stimulating environment, with access to large claims databases and frequent seminars,” says Patterson. “I enjoy being surrounded by faculty studying issues at the frontier of health care policy and the opportunity to shape that policy with my own work.”
complex, large-scale data, borrowing techniques from statistical machine learning. Currently, Kim and Zubizarreta are working on developing a novel method for personalized treatments using observational data and an efficient algorithm for assessing treatment effects for big data.
“Many questions that are arising in health care often require information about cause-effect relations and alternative scenarios: it essentially concerns ‘what might have happened if something, possibly contrary to fact, occurred’,” Kim explains, “At HCP, a goal of my research is to develop data-driven methodologies to answer such questions more efficiently and flexibly by effectively harnessing abundantly available observational data in hopes that it can support healthcare professionals and policymakers in creating more effective treatment plans.”
Previous Marshall J. Seidman Fellows have gone on to exceptional opportunities after their time in the department of health care policy. Sunita Desai, PhD, Eric T. Roberts, PhD, and Andrew Wilcock, PhD, have joined the faculty at the NYU Langone School of Medicine, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and the University of Vermont, respectively. Megan Schuler, PhD, is now an associate policy researcher at RAND, and Wenjia Zhu, PhD, works as a health economist at Mathematica Policy Research.
Through rigorous research and faculty collaboration, the fellows and trainees in the department of health care policy continue to investigate the questions facing the expansive world of health care policy, searching for answers and solutions for today and the future.