Research scientist studies how health systems can reduce colon cancer deaths.
What motivates you?
I became interested in cancer research because I believe science can provide answers to important questions, including how to reduce our chances of getting cancer.
Later, I became interested in more specific questions, including determining what health systems can do to help reduce colon cancer mortality. Even in my own family, there are misconceptions about the causes of cancer and ways to prevent it. This has reinforced my passion for studying cancer.
What first got you interested in implementation science?
Early in my career, I realized that we already knew a lot about how to prevent cancer, but too few of us follow these established recommendations. The same is true at the health system level. We already know how to improve rates of colorectal cancer screening using evidence-based approaches. Many health systems, however, face important challenges in implementing these approaches. Implementation science answers the questions about “how” and “under what conditions” can a program be implemented to accomplish successful outcomes.
Which projects have excited you most?
I am really excited about the potential for our PRECISE study [Predicting and Addressing Colonoscopy Non-adherence in Community Settings], a partnership with Sea Mar Community Health Centers, which aims to improve rates of follow-up colonoscopy in community health centers. This 5-year study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, will use patient navigation to address low rates of follow-up colonoscopy among patients who screen positive on fecal immunochemical testing (FIT-tests).
Navigation is widely endorsed as an effective approach to improving rates of follow-up colonoscopy, but navigation is costly and few health systems have been able to sustain navigation programs. As part of the study, we’re testing a risk prediction model that will allow us to target only those patients who are predetermined to have a low or moderate chance of completing a colonoscopy on their own. This will help winnow the patient populations to those who are most in need of navigation and offer health systems a sensible, cost-saving solution to a vexing problem.
What makes KP a good place to do implementation science?
Kaiser Permanente is a true a leader in health care innovation, not only nationally, but internationally Being a researcher embedded in a health care delivery system offers opportunities for collaboration with clinicians and health care leaders that allow us to have a real impact on the lives of the patients we serve.
What keeps you going outside of work?
I love to travel — the joy of experiencing another city or culture and the opportunity to meet others and see how they live is important and exciting for me. Travel also allows me to step into a completely unknown environment and immerse myself in a new experience. When I’m not traveling or working on my research projects, I love to bake. The aroma from a freshly baked loaf of banana bread straight from the oven is something that fills my home with warmth.