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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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VA Physician Appointed Director of Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies

May 17, 2007

HOUSTON – Laura Petersen, M.D., M.P.H, a staff physician in the Medical Care Line at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) has accepted the position as Director of the Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies (HCQCUS). She will also serve as the chief of the Health Services Research Section in the Department of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

HCQCUS is one of 15 VA-funded Centers of Excellence in Health Services Research.  It was founded in 1990 and now includes 38 investigators and 114 total staff members.  The theme of the Center “From Encounter to Policy: An Integrated Approach to Improving Quality of Care for Veterans,” builds on MEDVAMC’s historic strength and accomplishments in assessing health-care quality and utilization of health-care services, particularly for veterans.  This new theme also capitalizes the Center’s unique capabilities in the areas of patient-doctor communication, health policy, health-systems delivery, outcomes assessment, and more recently genomics. 

 “I am honored to lead this group of talented and committed researchers.  Our goal is to do research that improves how we deliver health care to patients, focusing upon veterans.  Our society spends billions on biomedical research, but most of those discoveries do not achieve their potential, because they never reach the patient’s bedside or clinic visit.  We seek to ensure that biomedical discoveries are translated and applied to patient care, with the ultimate goal of improving health through better health care,” said Petersen.

Petersen received her Medical Degree from Case Western Reserve University and completed her internship, residency, and fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University in Boston  She received her Master’s of Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health.  She has been a staff physician in the VA health care system since 1993 and on the staff of the MEDVAMC since 1998.  She was an associate director and chief of the Center’s program in Health Policy and Quality since 1995.  Petersen is a 2005 recipient of the American Heart Association Established Investigator Award, 2002 recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar Award, and 2001 recipient of the Society of General Internal Medicine, Outstanding Junior Investigator of the Year.  She is a graduate of the VA HSR&D Career Development Award program.

Petersen studies the effects of local, state, and federal governmental policies on the health of populations, access to care, efficiency of care, and quality of care.  Her work was cited extensively by the Institute of Medicine’s 2006 report, Provider Performance: Aligning Incentives in Medicine.  She is conducting a nationwide randomized controlled trial funded by both the VA and the National Institutes of Health to test the effect of financial incentives to promote translation of hypertension guidelines into clinical practice and improved control of hypertension in the VA primary care setting.  This study addresses one of the most perplexing challenges in translational research, “How do you get health care practitioners to implement effective treatments, once these have been identified?”

Some of Petersen’s key contributions to VA health care have included demonstrating that VA facilities outperform both the public and private sectors in overall quality. Petersen has worked with several VA networks to develop a resource-allocation model incorporating methods for risk-adjusted capitation for inpatient, specialty outpatient, and mental health care and incorporating a per-diem and fixed allocation for long-term care and special programs.  She and her team also developed a list of unique peer VA comparison facilities for each VA hospital that are now used to carry out quality, efficiency, and performance comparisons for VA hospitals.

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