Shannon Dunlay, M.D., is an assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic, with joint appointments in Cardiovascular Diseases and Health Sciences Research, and a recent Health Care Delivery Scholar in the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.
Having recently completed two years as a Kern Scholar in the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery (CSHCD), I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on my time. When I began the program, I had just completed my fellowship and joined the staff in Cardiovascular Diseases at Mayo. All scholars enter the program at different stages in their research trajectory and with different goals. I was fortunate to have spent a large amount of time developing my research skills and knowledge during my clinical training, and had focused my research around decision making and healthcare utilization in patients with advanced heart failure. Upon entering the Kern Scholars program, my goals for the two years were to secure a career development award and begin to build an independent research program, and I have had at least some success in meeting both goals.
In the first year of the award I successfully competed for a 5-year NIH K23 Career Development Award to study “End of Life Preferences and Healthcare Utilization in Advanced Heart Failure.” Since the award was funded, much of my time has been spent working on the aims of the grant, which include both retrospective and prospective projects. In particular, operationalizing the prospective recruitment and follow-up of patients has presented unique challenges and learning opportunities. As a Kern Scholar, I have also had the opportunity to collaborate with many individuals in the CSHCD, and have enjoyed leading projects evaluating health care utilization in heart failure using Optum Labs data and worked as a heart failure core team member in the multi-institutional quality improvement initiatives through the High Value Healthcare Collaborative. Several of the projects I have worked on have provided data to help us change the way we care for patients with advanced heart failure—both by delineating health care burden and working toward aligning care with patient preferences to provide higher value care.
While there were numerous rewards to being a Kern Scholar, the greatest benefit has been developing a community of research colleagues that I could collaborate with, gain feedback from, and share both successes and failures. Moving forward, as I continue to develop my own research program aimed at improving care for patients with advanced heart failure, I look forward to continuing to collaborate with this new research community.