By: Clare Roche, AcademyHealth

The Annual Research Meeting (ARM), deemed the premier health services research conference, brings together stakeholders leading the charge to transform the field. To uphold this prestigious title requires dedicated, collaborative efforts from the conference planning committee. Steering this year’s group of innovators was Boston native, Dr. John McDonough. Embracing his city’s landscape – a natural health care hub – Dr. McDonough and team carefully shaped the agenda for the 2016 ARM.

I was able to speak with Dr. McDonough about his experience as the conference chair, what he’s most excited about during the conference, and even some Red Sox baseball.

What has been the best part of planning this year’s Annual Research Meeting?

The best part of the Conference planning is being able to interact with so many AcademyHealth members who take time from their busy research and policy lives to construct the Annual Research Meeting conference agenda. These folks are incredibly busy and yet make the time to ensure that the conference will be compelling and timely, while upholding the strongest possible research standards.

Do you have a session(s) you’re most excited about?

I am particularly enamored by the Massachusetts Health Reform: 10 Years Later session. This law provided the conceptual platform on which the private health insurance expansions of the Affordable Care Act were based. We have put together a sterling collection of health policy experts on Massachusetts who will focus on the totality of the vast body of research that has accumulated since the law’s passage in 2006. Sharon Long has been the go-to person for the best data and analysis on the coverage impacts since before the law was even passed. Audrey Shelto leads the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation which has been the essential information source on the law and a prime mover in its passage and successful implementation. Stuart Altman is a national treasure, a deeply involved and respected health policy leader in Massachusetts -- he will consider the impact of the law on cost containment in a state where much has been happening. This session is a guaranteed hit!

Detailed agenda information is available here.

In comparison, this year’s ARM registration numbers are much higher than those in years past. Is there anything in particular that you’d contribute this success to?

I believe Boston is part of the improvement. This city is an exciting place to visit and spend time in – so it's attractive for families. Boston always attracts a wide and compelling audience of participants. Also, I think AcademyHealth just keeps getting better and better on all cylinders, programmatic, logistical, and marketing. The U.S. health services community is like no other on the planet and AcademyHealth is the go-to place for health services professionals to connect and to interact. Finally, the Affordable Care Act is the gift that just keeps on giving. The urgency and importance it has bestowed on the health services research and policy just never seems to abate, even in a presidential election year.

How do you think Boston has shaped this year’s agenda?

This town is legendary for politics, especially in a presidential election year. Our new (since 2015) Governor Charlie Baker, is a bonafide moderate Republican and is the most popular governor in the nation in a state as deep-dyed blue as you can get. Some of the intensity and excitement of this year's political environment will rub off because so much is still at stake regarding the future of U.S. health reform and the ACA. Also, Boston has one of the deepest benches of health policy experts in any state in the nation – and many of them have been helpful in advancing ideas and suggestions to make the ARM compelling and successful. And, fingers crossed, last I checked the Red Sox are on or near the top of the AL East. So come on down.

With the assistance of this year’s planning committee, Dr. McDonough has formulated one of the best conference agendas to date. AcademyHealth is contributing record-breaking registration numbers to the well thought out program content and Boston as the 2016 host site. The Annual Research Meeting is set to take place Sunday, June 26 through Tuesday, June 28. If you haven’t secured your seat yet, register now here.

The full list of 2016 Planning Committee participants is available here.


John E. McDonough, DrPH, MPA is Professor of Public Health Practice in the Department of Health Policy & Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Director of the HSPH Center for Executive and Continuing Professional Education. In 2010, he was the Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health at Hunter College in New York City. Between 2008 and 2010, he served as a Senior Advisor on National Health Reform to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions where he worked on the development and passage of the Affordable Care Act. For his full bio, click here.

Clare Roche is the Student Membership and Chapter Coordinator at AcademyHealth where she manages all student chapters and student members, as well as coordinates the scholarships and awards programs. She encourages you to get involved with AcademyHealth through the formation of student chapters which enhance the learning and professional development experience for students in health services research and health policy. Clare graduated from the George Washington University as a double major in Communication and Business. Contact her at

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