Students find new research opportunities in patient safety, quality improvement

logo templateLawrence Dall, M.D., professor of medicine, returned to the School of Medicine faculty last fall with a dual role. While serving as docent on the Red 3 unit, he would also take on the special project of getting more students involved in clinical research activities in the area of patient safety and quality improvement.

Just six months later, those efforts are already producing fruit.

Dall said that more than 30 students are in the process of starting or conducting research efforts, including seven research projects that are either currently underway or already competed. Four docents — Dall, Carol Stanford, M.D., Gold 5 docent, Jennifer Bequette, M.D., Blue 1 docent, and Reem Mustafa, M.D., Blue 3 docent, — are currently working with students on projects as faculty mentors.

The majority of research will be projects than can be completed in four to 12 months, which Dall said would open up more research opportunities for students.

“The reception of the student population has been outstanding,” Dall said. “They’re very hungry.”

Dall said the long-range goal is to eventually have every student participate in a quality improvement project at some point during their curriculum and possibly establish a Center of Excellence research program for developing quality outcomes.

“In any medical school there are going to be students interested in different phases of research,” Dall said. “It will be very good for the student population that all phases of research have equal representation and opportunities.”

The School of Medicine has numerous resources to support research in patient safety and quality improvement with both the large number of faculty that can serve as student mentors as well as a diverse patient population among the School’s partner hospitals, Dall said.

“You could look at different quality outcomes in different patient populations and that’s very important because a lot of quality outcomes published by CMS or Medicare or the government are based on populations that are potentially very different from the ones we take care of,” Dall said.

An advisory committee of faculty members representing the School’s partner hospitals helps students from formulating a question that can be answered in a finite period of time to navigating the required administrative procedures such as preparing a methodology, submissions to an Institutional Review Board and patient communications that are all critical parts of any medical research. Plans are also in the works for a website that will provide additional information.

Peter Almenoff, M.D., Vijay Babu Rayudu Endowed Chair of Patient Safety, is working with the advisory committee and helping to develop the website. Another member of the committee, Shauna Roberts, associate professor of internal medicine, also brings vast experience in quality improvement programs to the program, Dall said.

Mark Hoffman, Ph.D., director of the School’s Center for Health Insights, is assisting students and their mentors with the collection and interpretation of data. Tim Quinn, senior research associate, who has worked as a researcher at the medical school for a number of years, assists as a study coordinator to help students through the entire process.

Patient safety, quality outcomes and improvement programs have become a major topic in today’s health care world. Health care experts expect it to be a growing area of focus in the future as well.

“Doctors and hospitals are judged on this,” Dall said. “Hospitals are already listed on websites for performance in outcomes and doctors are going to be soon. So all of this education is important because students need to know what’s in front of them.”

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