This week, long-time AcademyHealth member Stephen Shortell, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., is being inducted into Modern Healthcare’s Hall of Fame. This honor serves as a leading example of just how relevant the field of health services research can be to making a real difference in health care delivery and the human condition.
Dr. Shortell’s career is replete with the expected milestones of a leading scholar: a Ph.D. in Behavioral Science from the University of Chicago in 1972; a productive academic trajectory with hundreds of publications (actually 351 in a quick pubmed search) and books; recognition with numerous awards, including the AcademyHealth Distinguished Investigator Award in 1998, and the William B. Graham (formerly Baxter) Health Services Research Prize from AUPHA in 1995; service as Dean at one of the world’s leading universities, a journal editor, numerous august national committees and Boards (including the AcademyHealth Board); and, election to the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) in 1986.
What makes his career and his contributions stand out is the impact he has had. As Benard Tyson wrote in 2019, Dr. Shortell “always moved the needle.” Not satisfied with academic publications alone, he has helped shape state and national policy through participation in various advisory capacities. His work and his knack for communicating his findings helped him effectively inform portions of the Affordable Care Act, most notably the accountable care concept. He has worked closely with health systems leaders for decades, ensuring that his research responded directly to their questions, and at times anticipating what questions would need answers in the future. Dr. Shortell’s understanding of what makes health care organizations and health care leaders “tick” is unmatched as policy makers and health systems leaders are continuously challenged to drive the implementation of evidence-based policies and practices.
There are other qualities of Dr. Shortell that may not be as evident to the broader community, but which are key ingredients to success in our field. His insatiable curiosity, his persistent generosity, and his lasting devotion to training and mentoring the next generation of health services researchers. He is a leader who has long seen the importance of connecting the field of health services research to the profession of health administration. After all, research that is not used to improve the performance of health care is not meeting its mission; and, health care leaders who do not use evidence to inform their strategic choices fall short.
It is for all of these reasons that AcademyHealth and AUPHA are delighted to come together to join in the chorus of congratulations for our friend and colleague, Steve Shortell!