Douglas Owens appointed task force vice chair

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Rod Searcey

Stanford Health Policy’s Douglas K. Owens has been appointed vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine.

Owens, the Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Professor at Stanford University is a general internist at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, and a professor of medicine, health research and policy, and management science and engineering at Stanford.

He is the director of the Center for Health Policy in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he is also a senior fellow, and the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research in the Department of Medicine and School of Medicine, and Associate Director of the Center for Innovation to Implementation at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

“Through his stellar work, Dr. Owens enables Stanford Medicine to advance its mission to precisely predict and prevent disease,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “As our country faces an increasingly diverse, aging patient population and rising health care costs, I am thrilled that Dr. Owens will contribute his perspective and expertise to this national task force.”

Owens served a previous four-year term on the independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. He will serve for two years as vice chair and then a year as chair. Members come from health-related fields ranging from internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, behavioral health, obstetrics/gynecology, and nursing.

The task force issues preventive care guidelines based on detailed assessment of the evidence about preventive interventions and is supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“It’s humbling because the task force guidelines impact virtually every primary care patient in the United States,” said Owens, who is also past president of the Society for Medical Decision Making. “Having an unbiased, independent assessment of the benefits and harms of preventive services is very important for primary care clinicians and patients.”

The task force works to improve American’s health by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services and preventive medications. Its members have tackled everything from whether to screen for certain cancers, which medications should be taken to prevent diseases and reduce blood pressure and high cholesterol, and screening for infectious diseases, including HIV, HCV, TB, syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“We are honored to welcome Dr. Owens back to the task force in a leadership role,” said task force chair David C. Grossman, MD, MPH, a senior investigator and medical director for population health strategy at the Group Health Research Institute.

“His experience in guideline development, both with the task force and partner organizations, and his work in evidence-based medicine and clinical decision-making are valuable additions to our leadership team,” Grossman said.

The task force, for example, just released its draft guideline on prostate cancer screening. And some of the medical topics under development are screening for cervical and BRCA-related cancer, as well as pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection.

Owens said that it was critical that the task force remains unbiased and independent. The 16 volunteer members who are nationally recognized experts in prevention, evidence-based medicine and primary care, carefully evaluate the science behind preventive interventions.

“The task force has very rigorous methods for assessing evidence, and we are fortunate to have state-of-the-art evidence reviews provided by AHRQ funded Evidence-Based Practice Centers,” he said.

Each year, the task force makes a report to Congress that identifies critical evidence gaps in research related to clinical prevention services and recommends priority areas that deserve further explanation. All their reports and recommendations are made public on the task force website and leave room for public comment.