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Empowering Data to Improve Health

Division of Research’s Doug Corley to lead delivery science program for optimizing care and treatment in Kaiser Permanente Northern California

On July 1, Douglas A. Corley, MD, PhD, of the Division of Research will take on the newly created regional role of medical director of delivery science and applied research for The Permanente Medical Group, with the goal of strategically using data to optimize care and treatment across Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

“It is exciting to work with our innovative clinicians, leaders and researchers in this new role.  Everyone is interested in accelerating improvements in patient outcomes, adding value to health care, and improving patient and physician well-being,” Dr. Corley said. “The challenge is how.”

Corley will be responsible for developing and implementing a research program that advances the creation of evidence-driven strategies to improve the delivery of health care.

“This new effort will develop new resources and link together existing ones, to provide our regional teams with support for evaluating programs, answering key clinical questions, and implementing changes from the new knowledge generated,” Dr. Corley said.

Powerful data resources

TPMG’s program expands on the pilot Physician Researcher Program begun in 2017 and the Division of Research’s dynamic Delivery Science portfolio.

Douglas Corley (center) will expand on the success of the Physician Research Program as newly hired medical director of delivery science and applied research for The Permanente Medical Group. Left to right, physician researchers Joseph Presti; David Vinson; Betty Suh-Burgmann; Corley, (program director); Matthew Solomon; Robert Chang; and Dan Li.

As an example of the kind of project the program will be pursuing, Dr. Corley cited a recent project undertaken by Betty Suh-Burgmann, MD, gynecological oncologist in Kaiser Permanente’s Walnut Creek Medical Center and a member of the pilot Physician Researcher Program.

“She evaluated a common clinical question in gynecological practice — can we predict which incidentally discovered ovarian cysts will be cancerous?” Dr. Corley said. “She then used TPMG’s powerful data resources to evaluate the question, collaborated with radiology to develop a new reporting template with risk categories, and implemented the findings.

“The final result was personalized care with surgeries tailored to risk, improved patient outcomes, fewer unnecessary operations and ultrasounds, and decreased patient and provider worry.”

Innovator, collaborator and educator

Yi-Fen (Irene) Chen, MD, TPMG associate executive director for quality and research, said that Dr. Corley will provide expertise in both the clinical and research areas.

“Doug is an innovator, collaborator, and educator,” Dr. Chen said. “He will be a great helper to the operational and clinical leaders to design their research studies, see them through the investigative thinking process, and finally translate their results into implementation in the clinical setting.”

After completing his medical training and fellowship at University of Pennsylvania, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Corley obtained a master’s degree in public health and doctorate in epidemiology from the University of California, Berkeley. In clinical practice at UCSF, he chaired the gastroenterology faculty. Corley joined TPMG and the Division of Research in 2002.

“Throughout his career he has blended clinical care with top-quality research,” said Tracy Lieu, MD, director of the Division of Research.

“Doug never sleeps”

A recipient of TPMG’s Morris Collen Award for research, Dr. Corley has garnered international recognition for his work evaluating practical problems with the potential to change clinical care. He has led numerous national grants and collaborations while holding leadership positions including director of the Physician Researcher Program and editor in chief of his specialty’s leading journal, Gastroenterology.

“Doug has a passion for working creatively on medicine’s fundamental questions and tough challenges,” said James Chang, MD, TPMG associate executive director for surgical services. “This is an exciting new opportunity for TPMG to bridge research and operations, which will lead to quality outcomes and support our organizational success.”

Lieu noted that in addition to his new role, Dr. Corley will continue as senior research scientist and practicing gastroenterologist at Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center.

“As many of us know, Doug never sleeps,” Dr. Lieu quipped. “We look forward to the Division of Research being a home base for his new activities.”

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