Health economics expert Laurence C. Baker has been appointed chair of the Department of Health Research and Policy (HRP) in the Stanford School of Medicine. He said he intends to encourage students and faculty within the department to expand the use of emerging data and analytic tools in their health-care research and policy recommendations.
Baker, a professor of health research and policy and a core faculty member at the Center for Health Policy/Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research, succeeds Philip W. Lavori, who becomes vice chair of the newly established Department of Biomedical Data Science.
“Laurence is a natural and excellent choice for the HRP chair position,” said Stanford Dean of Medicine Lloyd Minor. “Well-respected, trusted, and admired by his peers, Laurence has been chief of Health Services Research within HRP since 2001, during which time the division has grown in strength and reputation.”
Minor called Baker one of the top health economic experts in the world with a strong policy focus, saying he would “bring the unique perspective, energy, and thoughtful guidance needed during this time of change for the department.”
The Health Research and Policy department houses the divisions of Health Services Research and Epidemiology, and provides the analytical foundation for research conducted at the Stanford School of Medicine, offering expertise, research and training on collecting and interpreting the scientific evidence essential to improving human health.
“It’s an exciting time for health policy and the Division of Health Services Research,” Baker said. “The country is facing important challenges in our health-care system, and countries around the globe are looking for insights and new ideas that can improve health care. So there are real opportunities for Stanford to be a leader and make a difference.”
Baker, who is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, said that in his new role he intends to strengthen the epidemiology and the health services research groups at HRP. He will build on Lavori’s efforts to recruit diverse junior and senior faculty, train and retain graduate students and post-MD physician scientists, and make significant contributions to the Stanford Cancer Institute and Population Health Sciences.
“I’ve learned a lot from Phil and have really appreciated his steady and thoughtful leadership of HRP, as well as his insightful approaches to seeking excellence at a time of great change," Baker said. “We already have a strong history of making important contributions, and I think we are in an excellent position to make the most of new opportunities — like bigger and better emerging data and analytic tools and new settings for research — to do outstanding work.”
Baker said that the department successes have also included growing its faculty, establishing new PhD programs and working on interdisciplinary research projects at the School of Medicine and in collaborations with CHP/PCOR.
“I want to continue looking for opportunities to grow and strengthen the research and education that we offer, in the hope that we can strengthen the overall contribution to national and international health policy that Stanford can make,” he said.
Baker’s research examines the impact of financial incentives, regulations and organizational structures in health care. He also looks at the impact of managed care and related insurance arrangements on health care costs, the pricing of physician services, prices for health insurance and the availability and utilization of medical technologies.
Baker completed his doctoral degree in Economics at Princeton in 1994, and joined the faculty at Stanford in HRP soon after. His research focuses on the way that changes in health-care delivery systems influence the cost and quality of care, with a particular interest in the growth of large, multi-specialty, and hospital-affiliated medical practices.
In addition to his position in HRP, Baker is a professor of economics (by courtesy) at Stanford, a fellow of the Center for Health Policy, and a senior fellow of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
He also leads the School of Medicine’s Scholarly Concentration and Medical Scholars programs. Baker has received multiple honors and awards, including the ASHE medal from the American Society of Health Economists, and has helped lead key professional groups, serving on the boards of directors of the International Health Economics Association, AcademyHealth, and the American Society of Health Economists.
“There is growing recognition of the need for well-crafted health policies that can help us deliver quality care and real value,” Baker said. “More and more people are on the lookout for ways to improve population health in the United States and around the world, so I think we’re going to see more interest in the kind of work we do.”