RISE Scholars

Brooke Cunningham, MD, PhD
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
RISE Cohort 5

Implementation science is a way to study organizational change. It directs our attention to the behavior of health care personnel and health care systems, and away from patients. Medical researchers study the behavior of health care personnel and organizations far less than they do patients, yet patient outcomes are intimately tied to what they do (or fail to do). I believe that most people—patients or providers—want good results, but the contexts, under which patients live and providers work, sometimes frustrate each of their best efforts. I am sure that I study providers and systems because, as a member of a historically stigmatized racial group, it has bothered me that larger society often blames members of minority groups for their own social disadvantage, as if the contexts in which people live, work, and seek care, are not important. Similarly, as a physician, it troubles me that high expectations for clinical performance are not met with the necessary supports. By building my knowledge of implementation science, I will be better able to identify, measure, and intervene upon factors at the organizational level that effect efforts to address health disparities. Yes, health care personnel and systems are part of the problem, but— just as with patients—properly buttressed, they too can be part of the solution.