New master's degree in health outcomes and policy

Connecting the (research) dots

New master’s degree bridges gap between patient care, research and policy

By April Frawley Birdwell

Starting this summer, the UF College of Medicine will offer a new master’s degree geared toward helping improve health outcomes and shortening the time between research discoveries and their use in clinical practice.

“Under the traditional model of research, there is a long timeline between the research that occurs in labs and academic medical centers and actually getting it in to the general population,” said Jill Boylston Herndon, Ph.D., an associate professor of health outcomes and policy. “This program is trying to help bridge that gap between evidence and clinical practice and policies.”

The new Master’s of Health Outcomes and Policy will give students the scientific foundation to better understand and conduct research on the quality and effectiveness of health care and improve the delivery of clinical care, Herndon said.

The 30-hour program was designed with medical students, residents, fellows and junior medical faculty in mind but is open to anyone who wants to further develop their skills in health outcomes research.

“We are finding that more people want to be trained as clinical scientists,” she said. “An increasing number of medical students are interested in completing a master’s in research methods so they can more effectively participate in research and have scientific grounding to evaluate the studies that are already out there.”

For physicians and medical students, the research training allows them to see both sides of the research spectrum: Their clinical work gives them the perspective of individual patients and health outcomes research allows them to see how health care affects an entire population, said Lindsay Thompson, M.D., M.S., an assistant professor of pediatrics in the College of Medicine.

“A larger, more population-based way of looking at a problem can help in personal interactions, and personal interactions can help solve bigger problems, too,” Thompson said. “Having complementary skills reminds you which way to focus.”

Students will get firsthand research experience and will work one-on-one with a faculty mentor from the college’s department of health outcomes and policy. A certificate option is available for those who want to participate but may not have the time to complete a full master’s program.

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