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2013 Director's Letter

Partners in research and health

The Division of Research is notable for our distinctive setting within an integrated health care system. All our areas of inquiry — ranging from what causes disease to what interventions lead to better health — involve partnerships with clinicians and patients in the real-life setting of Kaiser Permanente’s 236 medical offices and 21 medical centers in Northern California.

In 2013, we brought national attention to the work of Kaiser Permanente through studies that stemmed from our being embedded in a learning health care system. One highlight among many was our paper on the factors that drove the success of a major clinical program to control high blood pressure in patients throughout the region. This study, published in JAMA last summer, drew plaudits from state and national organizations, and the director of the Centers for Disease Control cited Kaiser Permanente’s approach as he urged the entire country to adopt better approaches to hypertension screening and treatment. At the same time, the chief of our Cardiovascular and Metabolic Conditions Section chaired the national committee that developed comprehensive guidelines for better blood pressure control.

As a progressive and innovative health care organization, we recognize that genetics, environment, and behavior are principal drivers of health and disease. During the last year, we made notable progress in this area through specific investigations into the causes of disease as well as sustained development of our infrastructure for genomic studies. The fact that our portfolio spans the spectrum of basic disease etiology to clinical effectiveness and delivery science creates synergy and enables us to address a full range of opportunities to enhance health.

The Division of Research is also becoming increasingly sophisticated in medical informatics, the field founded by the Division’s first director, Morrie Collen. In the 1950s, Dr. Collen and Kaiser Permanente co-founder Sidney Garfield predicted that computers would someday be very useful in the practice of medicine. Today, we are transforming that vision into reality. On the occasion of Dr. Collen’s 100th birthday in November, the American College of Medical Informatics convened here for a scientific symposium to honor him and to establish the new medical subspecialty of clinical informatics. We truly have been blessed to have had his guidance for so many years.

The national environment for research funding is tight due to multiple economic pressures, and these are unsettled times for many research groups. We are not immune to these trends, but we are continuing to accomplish high-impact work, and we will maintain our commitment to excellence in research and beneficial influence on the health of our members and communities. We are grateful for the shelter and support of our mature parent organization, which views us as a long-term investment. Our research scientists are extremely talented, they recruit outstanding research teams, and we have strong and capable partners in our administrative, information technology, and strategic programming groups. With our intellectual assets and our integration as part of Kaiser Permanente’s learning health care system, I am very optimistic about our future.

Warm regards,


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

Above: Tracy A. Lieu, director of the Division of Research, meets regularly with founding director Morris F. Collen.