Ruth Murphey Parker, MD

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, 1986-1988

    • January 24, 2013

Position: Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine
Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta
Associate Professor of Epidemiology
Emory School of Public Health

Clinical Scholar: 1986–1988, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia

Research Project: "The Health of Homeless Families in Philadelphia"

Clinical Specialty: Internal Medicine

Ruth Murphey Parker's research has focused predominantly in two areas: medical education and health services for under-served populations. She has explored residency training issues, gender and medical socialization, and the practice of physicians trained in primary care. Her work on health issues of under-served populations has led her into health literacy. She helped create an instrument that measures and quantifies patients' ability to read and understand health care information. She is now exploring how poor health literacy affects patient care.

As a Clinical Scholar I did a general and demographic health survey of homeless children and their parents. The Clinical Scholars program didn't have money to help me with this kind of work, but they helped me get funding from the United Way of Philadelphia. The experience sealed my commitment to issues of access and to the area of health services research.

About 10 years ago, I began exploring the issue of health literacy, basically through a survey of patient satisfaction in a public hospital. I'm not sure I would have recognized the issue without the Clinical Scholars program. Dave Baker, a former scholar on the West Coast, had similarly recognized that patients didn't know how to follow medical directions, dosages and such. I was able to get funding to do research in this area, helping to create an instrument to measure patients' abilities to read and understand health care information. The Council on Scientific Affairs of the AMA [American Medical Association] formed an expert panel on health literacy and the AMA Foundation has made this a national signature issue. The steering committee for the AMA Foundation national program on health literacy has four Clinical Scholars program alumni.