WUHC Summer: ARMed with Takeaways

Mounika Kanneganti, WUHC Luncheon Series Chair

I’m Mounika: a Penn enthusiast, rising sophomore, and Health and Societies major. I am the Luncheon Series Chair for WUHC and if you haven’t come to any of the six luncheons last semester, there will be six more amazing “free lunches” next semester! During my internship this summer as part of the Summer Undergraduate Minority Research Program, I am working with Dr. Dan Polsky on analyzing healthcare reform implementation with state variation using data from the Health Insurance Exchanges. Additionally, I am working with Dr. Chyke Doubeni to help establish a pilot program to deliver mailed colorectal cancer screening kits to people in the community.

The Summer Undergraduate Minority Research Program (SUMR) is an endeavor by the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) and the Healthcare Management Department of the Wharton School to provide an opportunity to explore the exciting field of health services research. My 16 peers and I will give final presentations on our research projects at the SUMR Research Symposium in August.

Recently, SUMR traveled to San Diego for the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting (ARM). Health services researchers from all over the nation congregated June 7 to 10 for a healthy dose of waterfront breeze and a four-day conference hosting over 2,500 members. The conference represented researchers from a variety of backgrounds in the health services field; and as a result of this informative experience, everyone left wearing more “hats” than when they arrived.

  • The Universal Hat: To expand the reach of their work, health services researchers had an eager eye on Research Translation, Dissemination, Implementation and Impact.
  • The It’s-All-About-You Hat: As consumers of health care, we should realize the power of patient engagement and how health disparities may affect us. Patient-Centered Outcomes Research can be highly relevant to our medical decision-making. 
  • The Nudge Hat: As producers of health we should acknowledge the potential of behavioral economics to influence population health. Behavioral health economists: start bringing out those incentives!
  • The Google Hat: As future collaborators and innovators, we can generate the best ideas by reaching over existing boundaries and by engaging policymakers, payers, providers, and patients differently. The AcademyHealth Innovation Station was just the beginning…
  • The Sorting Hat: You can’t be an expert in everything, but you can still choose to be an expert. There were 18 ARM Conference themes!
  • The Novelty Hat: SUMR scholars, including me, are ready to “flip clinics” by working to re-imagine the medical encounters between patients and their care providers (Keynote Speaker, Thomas Goetz). Health IT and health communication are challenging and exciting fields.

Harvey V. Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine, pointed out that the number of people who classified themselves as health services researchers grew from four people to thousands and counting over a few decades. Dr. Fineberg’s Keynote Address was titled Research and Health Policy: Where the Twain Shall Meet. He called on clinicians and researchers alike “to make research and delivery of care the same thing; we learn the answers in real-time.” He echoed the underlying goal of health services research of“getting more with less” – increasing value is everyone’s cup of tea.

It was impossible to attend every interesting talk at the conference.  Nevertheless, I took away many snapshots of ongoing research. As a privileged undergraduate student among rising and current research stars, I don’t feel the need to solely follow in their footsteps, but to start my own path by building on everything that has been done and by being aware of the learning community around me.