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2018 Director's Letter

Answering Health Care’s Challenges

In 2018, the Division of Research was home to 11 postdoctoral researchers and fellows (10 shown).

Each year, as we transition from one year to the next, we have the opportunity to look back at the important initiatives in which the Division of Research played a part. And in 2018, the Division was instrumental in a number of significant changes that allow us to advance our core mission of delivering research that both informs and improves health care.

Perhaps the biggest transition for us in 2018 was a redesign of Kaiser Permanente Northern California clinical trials. Historically, the Division of Research’s Comprehensive Clinical Research Unit assisted in planning and conducting a number of clinical trials across the region. In August, this unit was folded into a new, larger, effort now called the Clinical Trials Program. This program will guide and support all Northern California Kaiser Permanente clinical trials, with leadership from our regional director for clinical trials Alan Go, MD, new managing director Victor Chen, and myself.

The new program will continue to reside at the Division of Research and provide strategic leadership and increased coordination and support for our clinical trial groups, providing the best experience for our physicians and members.

Another notable change came in July, when Doug Corley, MD, PhD, of the Division of Research took on a newly created regional role as medical director of delivery science and applied research for The Permanente Medical Group. The term “delivery science” means evaluating the effectiveness of clinical practices and systems for delivering care at scale. In his new role, Doug will be bridging research and implementation to optimize care across Kaiser Permanente Northern California. TPMG’s support for the growth of our work in delivery science has led to increasing opportunities for physicians to partner with researchers in operationally relevant studies.

Related to these efforts, our Delivery Science Fellows program continues to grow, with the inclusion of 3 new fellows for the 2018­­-2020 term. These early-career investigators cover a broad range of work, from looking at how technology and data can enhance care, to the best ways to improve cardiovascular and related health services. They complement 2 other fellows currently in their final year as Delivery Science Fellows. Combined with 6 other postdoctoral researchers, these emerging investigators comprise our contribution to growing the next generation of health care researchers.

Adding to that in 2018 was a first — both for Kaiser Permanente and the Division of Research: the award of a T32 grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The grant will train young scientists to translate research into practice, specifically, for people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. T32 training grants are much more commonly awarded to universities, and this marks the first time any Kaiser Permanente research institution has been the prime recipient.

Needless to say, this hasn’t distracted us from our core mission of conducting top-quality research. In 2018, our research appeared on 4 “Most Talked About Articles” lists from the Journal of the American Medical Association’s publications: JAMA Cardiology, JAMA Internal Medicine, JAMA Oncology and JAMA Pediatrics. It’s worth noting that the Division was the only institution that had studies on all 4 of those lists.

All this puts the Division of Research in a unique place: as a leading institution dedicated to understanding the health care challenges of our times and training those who will one day find answers to those challenges. No small task, but one I’m confident we’re capable of.


Tracy A. Lieu, MD, MPH
Director, Division of Research