Category Archives: Conferences

Aug 28 2013
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Two Conferences Offer Networking Opportunities that Renew a Scholar’s Interest in Research

Courtney Sinclair Thomas, BS, is a health policy fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University. Her research interests are maternal and child health, specifically social factors that contribute to the high rate of infant mortality in the African American community.

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I recently presented at two conferences in New York: the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). Overall, they were great experiences. It was my first year attending such large conferences within the field of sociology, so I found myself nervous, yet excited about meeting new people and hearing about new research.

Although the two annual meetings were quite different, I gained a wealth of knowledge from them both. The SSSP meeting was held August 9th to 11th and this year’s theme was “Moving Beyond Social Constructionism,” challenging the way we, as scholars, think about society’s problems.  I presented a paper titled, “The Black Middle Class: New Insights for the Study of Racial and Ethnic Inequality,” during a thematic session with other scholars who study race and identity. There were four other panelists and we each had time to share our work with the audience and engage in conversation about the themes that emerged among the different projects.

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Aug 28 2013
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Affirmation at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting

Taylor Hargrove is a PhD student in the sociology department at Vanderbilt University and a graduate fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. Her research interests focus on racial/ethnic stratification, health disparities, social determinants of health, and stress. Her M.A. thesis examines the adequacy and utility of the stress process model among African Americans.

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As a rising third year in the sociology doctoral program at Vanderbilt University, I recently attended my first annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA). I didn’t really know what to expect.  I suppose I thought it would be like any other conference I had been to, which, up to that point, had been pretty laid back.

The day I went to check-in, I realized I had been mistaken. I stepped inside the doors of the conference hotel and immediately became part of the swarm of sociologists from all around the world.  I became instantly overwhelmed. Not only were there a ton of people walking around, but I knew that there was so much knowledge and expertise surrounding me. I also knew that scholars I had, and continue to, read extensively were just inches away from me somewhere.

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Aug 27 2013
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A Fellow’s Perspective on the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association

Helena Dagadu is a fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University. Dagadu’s research and professional interests include comparative health and health policy, health disparities, social determinants of health, and international medical migration.

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Presenting and attending academic conferences are important components of a scholar’s development. Not only are such meetings important venues to present one’s work and receive constructive feedback, they also provide a less formal environment to meet scholars outside one’s academic home, exchange ideas, and foster lifelong academic relationships.

From August 10th to 13th, I participated in the 108th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in New York City. The theme for this year’s meeting was “Interrogating Inequality.” Given its distinct character as a global city and its rich history of diversity, New York provided the prime backdrop to examine how, in the words of ASA President Cecilia Ridgeway, PhD, “inequality, in all its multi-dimensional complexity, is produced in contemporary societies.”

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Jul 31 2013
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Implementing the Affordable Care Act: Getting Beyond Drama to the Real Deal on Health Reform

Linda Wright Moore, MS, is a senior communications officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

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The swirl of controversy and nonstop debate around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act  (ACA) is like a play that never ends: Every time you think you’re coming to the finale, another character or plot twist crops up—and the production drags on … and on.

So it goes with the ACA: Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the new law to be mostly sound, but fudged on the state mandate to expand Medicaid just enough to keep the drama twisting and turning—and to make many poor and uninsured people ineligible for government subsidies.

Meanwhile, repeated attempts to repeal the law—at least 38 to date—have contributed to a jarring statistic: 42 percent of Americans are unaware that the ACA is the law of the land. In light of the lack of knowledge that the health reform law is the law—it’s no surprise that half of the public admits to not having enough information to understand the likely impact of the ACA on themselves and their families.

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May 28 2013
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A Nurse and Two Venture Capitalists? Unexpected Connections at TEDMED

Timothy Landers, RN, CNP, PhD, is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar.

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One of the great surprises of TEDMED was the chance to talk with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.  Entrepreneurs and inventors mixed with physicians and nurses, computer developers and hackers, health care leaders and nonprofit executives, as well as politicians and visionaries.

At a social at the Air & Space Museum, I was waiting for dessert with two well-dressed businessmen who explained their “business” was venture capital (VC).  As it turns out, some VCs look for new, high-tech start-up technology, while others target under-developed business opportunities.

I admit to being skeptical of the profit motive in health care and the profit-maximizing approach too often seen in the corporate world.  As a nurse, I have seen power and prestige given to corporate interests at the expense of patients and families.  Because of the structure of TEDMED, this nurse found himself talking about approaches to venture capital and start-up funding.

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May 20 2013
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Big Data and the Great Challenges of Health and Medicine

Timothy Landers, RN, CNP, PhD, is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar.

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The Great Challenges Program is an ongoing effort by the TEDMED community to provide innovative, interdisciplinary perspectives on the most complex and challenging issues in health care. A year-long dialogue facilitated through social media tools and panels of experts continued at the annual gathering of TEDMED 2013.

One of the themes of TEDMED 2013 was the creative and thoughtful use of big data and small data to improve health and health care.

Small data includes individual level information specific to an individual or circumstance. In small data, “n=ME.” A vast amount of individual level information is now routinely collected. However, a large volume of data is not required for small data to be useful—in the words of one TEDMED speaker, it’s not the volume of the data, but the complexity of existing data. Data must be available and accessible in order to be useful as well.

Big data refers to patterns of data and information available at the population level. The goal of big data is to use information and take a “macroscopic” view of health. It includes the ability to recognize patterns that are not obvious or readily apparent. Big data analysis permits us to go from pieces of data to collective wisdom, a theme of TEDMED 2013.

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Apr 26 2013
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Green Eggs and Ham: Our TEDMED Experience

This blog post offers perspectives from seven Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars who attended TEDMED 2013 last week.

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Seeing things in new and different ways will advance nursing practice, research, and education.  We need to think of creative strategies to raze perceived boundaries. One way for nurses to enter new frontiers is to engage in interprofessional dialogue with consumers, health care providers, researchers, entrepreneurs, technology experts, designers, and artists. We experienced this interchange at TEDMED 2013—an interprofessional conference for sharing and exploring solutions to health care’s most pressing challenges.

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Collaboration is Key
Adejoke Ayoola: The opportunities to explore new advances in technology and interact with innovators remind me of an African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” The outcome is more fulfilling with collaboration. By collaborating with stakeholders (e.g., community residents, community health workers, local agencies), research not only becomes more effective, it becomes more relevant to societal needs. Collaboration with my nursing colleagues promotes scholarly growth and may involve writing manuscripts or conducting smaller studies associated with a bigger study.

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Mar 22 2013
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A ‘Goldilocks’ Theorem of Shared Savings and ACOs

Brendan Saloner, PhD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar in residence at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. This is the first in a series of essays, reprinted from the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics’ eMagazine, in which scholars who attended the recent AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference reflect on the experience.

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Like Goldilocks wandering through the house of the Three Bears, policy-makers in search of a health care payment model have found it difficult to settle on an option that is "just right."

Fee-for-service—paying doctors separately for each service they provide—leads to too much unnecessary and duplicative care (too hot!). Capitation—paying doctors a fixed fee for caring for patients—leads doctors to skimp on care and avoid costly populations (too cold!). A "just right" payment model should give providers incentives to provide all the clinically necessary care to patients while keeping costs low.

Shared savings models—allowing providers to keep a portion of the money they save caring for patients—have been touted as one method for aligning the incentives of providers and payers. Most prominently, shared savings is a central element of the Affordable Care Act's Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).

An ACO is a network of providers that have agreed to accept a bundled payment for treating patient populations, and in return stand to gain incentive payments for meeting performance targets (or to lose money for missing targets). In the "happily ever after" version of ACOs, groups of providers will finally have a business case for coordinating patient medical records, reducing costly visits to the emergency room, and improving patient compliance with chronic disease therapies without leading to excessive procedures or gaps in care. Healthy patients, healthy profits.

But will it work?

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Mar 19 2013
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Summit on the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action

More than 200 leaders from state Action Coalitions gathered in Washington, D.C. recently for the 2013 Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action Summit on the Future of Nursing. Watch the video below to hear from some of them about the experience.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, kicked off the Summit by discussing the Foundation’s commitment to transforming health care through nursing. View her conversation with RWJF Senior Communications Officer Linda Wright Moore, MS, in the right-hand sidebar of the blog.

Learn more and see photos from the Summit.

Jul 11 2012
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International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora 2012: Scholars React

Last week was the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora (ICHAD), which convened experts from a variety of fields to discuss the health and social experience of African descendants in the Western hemisphere. Below, two scholars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College who attended the conference talk about the experience. Courtney Sinclair Thomas,  BS, is a 2011 health policy fellow and doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University, and Erika Leslie, MSPH, is a 2012 health policy fellow and doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University.

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Human Capital Blog: Why did you decide to attend the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora?

Courtney Sinclair Thomas: I decided to attend ICHAD because thus far, my research has been focused on the health of African Americans in the United States. However, I realize that the shared history of the Transatlantic slave trade unites members of the Diaspora in unique ways. I wanted to learn more about the experiences of Blacks from throughout the Diaspora so that I could gain insight into the phenomenon of "race," which has such a significant impact on our health and life chances.

HCB: Please explain the ways that being a descendant of slavery can affect individual, family and population health today.

Sinclair Thomas: Being a descendent of slavery has major impacts on health today. I am interested in social determinants of health, and the experience of slavery has left an entire race at greater risk for many health conditions. This is particularly due to increased chronic stresses, discrimination, and lower social status and access to opportunities.

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