The 1960s: Creation of the Division of Research
Morris Collen, MD, becomes founding director of Medical Methods Research, later renamed the Division of Research, leading from 1961 to 1979.
An IBM 1440 computer is used to store patient clinical data collected in the early detection of disease. The fledgling information system stored patient identification data, physician examination and patient history data, lab results, and EKG and X-ray interpretations.
Learn more about computers screening for better health
The Division’s Edmund (Ted) Van Brunt, MD, pilots a computer-based patient medical record system with a database that supports both patient care and health services research. Kaiser Permanente becomes one of a handful of places in the world to start this pioneering work.
The 1970s: Early pioneers of an integrated medical record
A computer medical record now exists for all health plan members. These earliest records are still used in research today, and they allow the Division of Research to develop a data-based research agenda.
Ted Van Brunt, MD, becomes second director of DOR, leading from 1979 to 1991.
Investigators publish in the New England Journal of Medicine on mortality in middle-aged smokers.
The 1980s: A major research operation in epidemiology
The Division opens a research clinic to support the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study — a longitudinal study of heart health and disparities that continues to this day and has resulted in more than 600 published papers.
The Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center is founded to monitor vaccine safety and effectiveness.
The Medical Methods Research Department changes its name to the Division of Research.
Kaiser Permanente oncology clinical Trials (KPOCT) is established, enrolling hundreds of Kaiser Permanente patients each year in mostly multicenter, Phase 2 and 3 cancer studies.
A research team looks at the effectiveness of flexible sigmoidoscopy. Findings result in the Kaiser Permanente Colon Cancer Prevention Program and lead the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to recommend colorectal cancer screening for the first time.
The 1990s: Ushering in large-scale collaborative research
Gary Friedman, MD, becomes DOR’s third director, leading from 1991 to 1998.
The confidential Member Health Survey begins. Conducted every 3 years, the survey explores sociodemographic and health-related characteristics of the adult membership of Kaiser Permanente Northern California.
Joe Selby, MD, MPH, becomes DOR’s fourth director, leading from 1998 to 2011.
The 2000s: A new era of DOR collaborations
A DOR research team publishes a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that shows chronic kidney disease increases a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, or death.
The Division of Research receives a $10 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study whether lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and use of complementary and alternative medicine impact recurrence and survival rates for women with breast cancer.
The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study — the largest randomized trial to look at diet and breast cancer risk — reports in JAMA that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and fiber does not lower risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
A comprehensive colorectal cancer screening study is launched that would go on to show how an integrated screening program can save lives.
The Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health (RPGEH), now one of the largest such research projects in the United States, is established to examine genetic and environmental factors that influence a wide variety of common diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression.
Study of more than 132,000 children suggests link between autism and advanced maternal and paternal age.
DOR establishes the Comprehensive Clinical Research Unit (CCRU) to support clinical trials conducted by DOR research scientists and clinicians from The Permanente Medical Group across a variety of specialties. In 2018, this becomes the Clinical Trials Program.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides $7.5 million over 5 years to establish a collaborative Cardiovascular Research Network within the HMO Research Network to better study the epidemiology, prevention, management, and outcomes of cardiovascular diseases.
DOR receives a $25 million Grand Opportunities grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct genotyping on 100,000 Kaiser Permanente members participating in the Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health, the largest population-based biobank in the United States.
The 2010s: Mentoring the next generation
Kaiser Permanente researchers alert the CDC to preliminary evidence of an increased risk of febrile seizures following measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV) vaccination compared with separate MMR and V vaccines. CDC then recommends that families without a strong preference for MMRV should receive separate MMR and V vaccines.
The Division becomes the lead site for the Cancer Research Network, a National Cancer Institute-funded initiative to support research in non-profit integrated health care delivery systems on all aspects of cancer care, from etiology through survivorship.
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, becomes fifth director of DOR, leading from 2012 to the present.
The Delivery Science Fellowship Program is established to train postdoctoral fellows on identifying and implementing best practices for delivering care to diverse populations. The program has since attracted nationwide interest.
Researchers report in JAMA that Kaiser Permanente Northern California nearly doubled the rate of blood pressure control among adult members with diagnosed hypertension between 2001 and 2009 through one of the largest, community-based hypertension programs ever developed.
DOR research contributes to development of a neonatal sepsis risk calculator, safely reducing newborn antibiotic use by nearly 50 percent.
The Permanente Medical Group and DOR establish the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program to foster collaborations between clinician-investigators and DOR scientists. DARE provides infrastructure, connections, and analytic support to clinician-researchers for answering questions that will change care.
Kaiser Permanente data helps create street-level view of the health Impacts of air pollution in Oakland.
The 2020s: Tackling new health care mysteries
Research scientists publish some of the first papers to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer screening and heart attack and stroke care.
Autistic youth transitioning to adulthood have unique health needs and need assistance from the medical community, according to research from DOR’s Autism Research Program.
DOR predictive analytics specialists teamed up with nursing and hospital leaders to create the Advance Alert Monitor system, which identifies hospital patients at risk of rapid deterioration. In an analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the system is associated with lower mortality.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found a method to remove race from controversial kidney function equations without losing accuracy. The findings helped inform new National Kidney Foundation-American Society of Nephrology Task Force guidelines on evaluating kidney function.
Largest-ever study of thoracic aortic aneurysm provided high-quality evidence that most of the 33,000 patients diagnosed each year in the U.S. with this type of aneurysm are not likely to experience a tear or rupture — an aortic dissection — and may not need open-heart surgery.