CHP/PCOR’s three new faculty members bring a varied background in behavioral health economics, law and children’s health outcomes

CHP/PCOR’s three new faculty members bring a varied background in behavioral health economics, law and children’s health outcomes

By Teal Pennebaker

Three researchers, whose work spans the globe as well as disciplines, have joined CHP/PCOR.  They include a health law professor, a physician economist interested in how behavioral issues influence patient outcomes, and another physician economist who will focus on health economic issues among children in developing countries.

“We are thrilled to welcome Marcella Alsan, David Studdert, and David Chan to our centers. Each of these folks fit into our centers' mission to produce rigorous relevant research by people who care deeply about the topics they probe,” CHP/PCOR Executive Director Kathryn McDonald said. “We credit the current community of scholars at Stanford with attracting these talented individuals to join forces with us.”

Professor David Studdert has spent the past six years at the University of Melbourne’ Law School teaching and studying policy issue at the intersection of health and legal systems.  His most recent research has investigated the relationship between speeding tickets and auto accidents, how patient complaints can be used as indicators health care quality, and how claimants move through workers’ compensation systems.

“David is one of the leading scholars in the world in health law and we are fortunate to have him join our faculty,” CHP/PCOR Director Doug Owens said. “David’s recruitment provides a terrific opportunity to expand our policy work, and his research will serve as the nucleus for joint training and research with our colleagues in the law school.”

Studdert, who will spend a quarter of his time at Stanford Law School, plans to focus on regulatory “hot spotting” in the short term—an approach that uses statistical profiling techniques to make regulation more efficient in areas ranging from medical malpractice to road safety. “There’s a lot going on in health care regulation in the United States,” Studdert said. “I hope to be able to collaborate with others at PCOR--it’s a very exciting, bright group of researchers with plenty of areas of mutual interest.”

Studdert has actually worked with CHP/PCOR members before—he was at RAND in the late 1990s while CHP/PCOR Professor Jay Bhattacharya was there. Similarly, CHP/PCOR’s newest faculty Marcella Alsan and David Chan have actually spent ample time together—before coming to Stanford, they did the same internal medicine residency program at the Brigham Women’s in Boston. Both Chan and Alsan will also practice medicine at the Veteran Affairs hospital part-time as is the case for some of the other clinical faculty members at CHP/PCOR. 

“We are delighted that we were able to recruit two exceptional physician economists to our centers,” Owens said. “Marcella brings deep understanding of global health from her training in infectious diseases along with the methodologic skills of an economist.  It is a rare combination and will enable her to make exceptional contributions in understanding the interplay of health and economics in the developing world. "  

Assistant Professor Marcella Alsan, who has a PhD in economics, a master’s in public health and a medical degree, will focus her research on policy questions in international health, particularly among children in developing countries.  Right now she’s finishing up a project looking at the spillover effects for the siblings and family members of children participating in a large-scale immunization program in Turkey. Alsan is also in the midst of revising a job market paper about how disease affects long-term economic development of Africa. 

“I’m a researcher, a physician and a past global health resident at Brigham and Women's hospital. All of that fits in best here at CHP/PCOR. Stanford is a stellar academic institution and has a growing global health and development community,” Alsan said. “At PCOR, they do excellent research and have wide interests. There isn’t pressure to be narrowly focused on one topic or one publication style.”

Assistant Professor David Chan, who has a PhD in economics and training in internal medicine, will focus on how behavioral issues impact productivity in health care systems. 

"Dave is uniquely trained to study the productivity of  healthcare systems.  Given the extraordinary need to reduce costs and provide high-value care, we believe Dave’s work on health care productivity will be enormously important in understanding some of the most difficult challenges for medicine today," Owens said.

Chan’s current work includes studying the impact of whether doctors choosing which patients they see affects their patients’ health outcomes; the effects on patients’ health outcomes if a doctor sees them at the beginning or end of the doctor’s shift; and whether providing doctors financial incentives—e.g. linking the number of ultrasounds a doctor gives out to their pay—impacts patient health outcomes.

“The environment at the centers is just great for someone who’s multidisciplinary. It’s a small place but surrounded by so many great partners within walking distance -- the business school, economics department, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the computer science department, and so on,” Chan said.  “It’s great to be back in California. I even bought a bike—I’ve never really ridden a bike this much!”