Celebrating the Impact and Inspiration Behind Bringing Value to Healthcare

Julia Adler-Milstein is an associate professor at the School of Information at the University of Michigan with a joint appointment in the School of Public Health (Health Management and Policy). Her research focuses on policy and management issues related to the use of information technology in healthcare delivery. Her expertise is in health information exchange and she has conducted 5 national surveys of health information organizations.
The first winner of the Seema S. Sonnad Emerging Leader in Managed Care Research award in 2015 writes about winning the award and 3 dimensions of the experience that were particularly meaningful.
Receiving the inaugural Seema S. Sonnad Emerging Leader in Managed Care Research award in 2015 was an incredible honor and 3 dimensions of the experience were particularly meaningful.
 
The first was the formal acknowledgement that my work as a junior faculty made an impact on the field of managed care. While the term “managed care” is associated with payment reform in the 70s, the term (along with the focus of The American Journal of Managed Care) has evolved to capture the important need to balance cost containment and quality improvement.
 
In my focal area of research—health information technology (IT)—this dual aim is core to the motivation for health IT adoption. I was gratified to learn about the ways in which my specific focus on the impact of health IT on cost and quality outcomes was contributing to the field. Perhaps more importantly, the award has further spurred me to tackle important questions related to how health IT is being used to improve the performance of the healthcare system in the United States.
 
The second meaningful dimension of the award was the opportunity to re-read Seema’s impressive body of work, and reflect on the impact it had. Seema studied a diverse range of topics—technology diffusion, guideline implementation, and meta-analysis—and made important contributions to each. Junior faculty members are strongly encouraged to pursue a narrow research focus. I have always struggled with this advice, and instead chose to pursue topics that are most timely and impactful, even if the fit to my core interests was not strong. It is therefore so important to have role models like Seema, who demonstrated the success of broad research portfolios. Seema and I also overlapped in our pursuit of interdisciplinary research. She collaborated widely and this clearly extended her impact. It is another way in which her research inspires me.
 
Finally, on a more personal level, it was very meaningful to be brought into Seema’s circle of family and friends. It was wonderful to meet and receive the award from Seema’s husband, Henry. I also learned that Seema had been close friends with a colleague who works down the hall from me. When Seema was at University of Michigan, she was an avid equestrian, and regularly rode with this colleague, who shared with me many Seema memories that helped me understand the many dimensions of Seema.
 
On both a professional and personal level, my life is now connected to Seema, and this is the true honor of receiving the award. As my colleague and her friend shared with me: “You can bet she will be looking over your shoulder as you do your research, egging you on and encouraging you to keep going. That's the kind of woman she was.”

[Editor's note: This year's winner will be announced at the ACO & Emerging Healthcare Delivery Coalition Fall Live Meeting, October 20-21, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Learn more and register to attend.]

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