John McHugh, PhD candidate in health services research, successfully defended his dissertation, titled "The Impact of Hospital-Skilled Nursing Facility Partnerships on Rehospitalization Rates," on July 25, 2016.
Tell us about your time at Brown. What did you enjoy most about being a doctoral student here?
I ended up at Brown by chance, as at the time, the School of Public Health had not yet been formed. Boy, was I lucky, because I could not have scripted a more positive experience than the four years I had at Brown. An organization is only as good as its people, and the School of Public Health and the Department of Health Services, Policy and Practice have some of the most supportive and encouraging people (faculty, support staff, students) I have experienced in my career. I have had the opportunity to transition from a consulting career to a research/teaching academic career because of the support and mentorship I received at Brown from day one to my final dissertation defense. The people made this experience great. I leave with a deep connection to the Brown community and friendships that will last forever.
What public health issues do you hope to address through your dissertation?
I hope to continue my work studying the intersection of hospitals and post-acute providers. Hospitals are often the largest employers in a community but are facing a time in our health care system where they must find ways to reinvent themselves to provide lower cost, higher quality care to their communities. One way hospitals are thinking differently about the care they provide is with respect to patients discharged to skilled nursing facilities. These often frail and elderly patients are at higher risk for readmission and these transfers can have negative effects on patient outcomes and overall health. Given this reality, I hope to study ways in which hospitals are organizing around policy changes and developing an evidence base for strategies to providing better value to patients in their respective communities.
What are your future plans now that you have finished your PhD?
Now that I am done with my PhD, I will be joining the faculty at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. I will be teaching health care strategy and continuing my research on organizational relationships and behavior, using hospitals as my unit of analysis, in the Department of Health Policy and Management.