As 2020 Delivery System Science Fellows, our cohort worked in several different health systems to receive research training to address the gap between research findings and clinical practice changes. The Fellows have worked to accomplish this goal through collaboration with clinicians, patients, and leaders as embedded learning health researchers within our health systems. Unlike many other fellowships and post-doctoral programs, AcademyHealth’s Delivery System Science Fellowship (DSSF) emphasizes working within the health system. By being embedded in the health system, Fellows gain the skills to create sustainable health systems focused on improving care across disciplines, including medicine, nursing, and physical therapy. Below, current Fellows reflect on the last year, sharing key learnings and highlighting the hands-on nature of the Fellowship.
Delivery System Science Fellowship as a Veterans Affairs Quality Scholar – Jason Sharpe
Through the DSSF, I joined the Durham VA as a Veterans Affairs Quality Scholar (VAQs). In the Durham VA health system, I worked as an embedded researcher performing implementation, quality improvement, and clinical duties. Working within a health system, I have gained foundational implementation methodological skills setting me up to complete my future work of improving access to outpatient physical therapy for Veterans suffering from low back pain and knee osteoarthritis. I acquired these skills through hands-on quality improvement work as an embedded researcher through the VAQs program’s 2-year national quality improvement curriculum.
In the Durham VHA Physical Therapy clinic, I provided direct patient care while assisting physical therapists in conducting clinician-led quality improvement projects. Implementation research and clinical efforts often create change, but stakeholders are not offered a platform to voice their opinions. Working as a researcher, quality improvement fellow, and clinician, I have been able to bridge some the gaps between clinical practice, leadership, and researchers in the Durham VA through increased communication. Increased communication allows stakeholder groups to voice their personal goals and work together to develop a common goal. Researchers, health system leaders, clinicians, and patients often speak different languages and appear to have opposite goals, but they are frequently working to save a common problem. This disconnect creates several barriers to meaningful, effective, and sustainable change. During the Fellowship, I learned how to effectively engage stakeholders, including periodically soliciting feedback from the physical therapists, patients, and leadership and using their feedback to improve my work.
Value of Being an AcademyHealth DSSF Fellow - Victoria Ngo
Upon completing my Ph.D., I explored opportunities to expand and diversify my knowledge of health systems. As a DSSF fellow, AcademyHealth connected me to resources and a space to grow. I found it useful to be exposed to the variety of departments through multiple projects related to mental health support, caregiving, and technology. I especially enjoyed being part of a multidisciplinary trainee cohort and attending the Annual Research Meeting for the first time this year. As someone who was new to the organization, I felt welcomed.
The AcademyHealth Delivery System Science Fellowship has been a rewarding experience so far because of the opportunities available. I encorage all who are looking for hands-on learning experience to apply. Being able to gain insight to a large health system has opened doors to meet new people, learn about implementation science, and apply new skills as health services researcher. I value both the mentorship and ability to network with peers and potential collaborators.
AcademyHealth is currently accepting applications for the Delivery System Science Fellowship. To learn more about the program, view the 2022 host sites, and submit an application, visit academyhealth.org/dssf