So, What Do You Do Again?
Sometimes I have difficulty in appropriately communicating my research interests and I think that is because they are so varied – everything seems interesting. My Ph.D. is in “Pharmaceutical Sciences” which means nothing to most people. It’s a very broad label that was largely a function of the school consolidating the name of the graduate degrees being granted from 5 or 6 separate programs (e.g., Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Pharmacognosy, Pharmaceutics, Pharmacy Administration, etc…). That last one, Pharmacy Administration, is what my Masters and Ph.D. degrees would have been called had I received them before the change. I’m not sure which is less descriptive of what I actually do: Pharmaceutical Sciences or Pharmacy Administration. Maybe all researchers have this qualm with some part of their education or maybe it just helps to feed an esoteric conversation we like having with our colleagues. I’m not sure and I don’t suppose that it matters. When trying to describe “what I do” to others, at times I have clumsily thrown around that I study the social and behavioral aspects of health care or the marketing and management parts of health care or we study everything in health care except what the “bench” scientists do. Occasionally, I have even hammered through a bullet point list of topics, like: we study the social, behavioral, administrative, economic, marketing, and management aspects of health care. Feeling very comfortable in my inclusiveness of all the things my program covers, I’m sure I have worn out the “non-pharmacy administration” person out.
Jack of All Trades?
What’s the next line to that saying? Oh, don’t worry about it. The good thing about my chosen field is that there are SO many opportunities for research and my degree program gave me great exposure to many techniques, so that I may develop my own research foci as I bop along in my career. In fact, I have never had a single class that covers my core research interests; however, there is tremendous overlap in the methodologies, statistics, and core knowledge areas between the research areas that I might call home. I really appreciate the broad focus of my training. It allows me to really “get” a lot of topics. I “get” epidemiology, but I am not an epidemiologist. Oh, you want to talk about pharmacoeconomics, sure I can, but I’m not a pharmacoeconomist. Health outcomes is your cup o’ tea? Well, let me show you a few studies I have worked on – but I am not just a health outcomes researcher.
There are also topics which interest me on an intellectual level, but they are not currently in my research focus or in any of my active research programs. An example of that would be the emerging field of complex adaptive systems. I am truly fascinated by this budding field, but I have not figured out a way to incorporate it into my research. I’m trying, but I’m just not there, yet. If I had to give myself some general title that reflects my research interests, it would be Health Services Research – still an incredibly broad term that covers a lot of areas, but I think most of my research fits nicely in that term. I have also seen a number of job postings, typically at health care payers, that use the word Clinical Economics in the title and I must say, most of those jobs seem nearly perfectly aligned with what I would consider my areas of expertise and/or areas in which I hold a deep interest. Not just health outcomes and pharmacoeconomics, but also how health care is financed, capitated payment structures, bundled payments, and the like.
I feel like I still have some more pondering to do on this topic before I can concisely summarize who I am research-wise. When I started this post, I really thought I was going to spell out research interests and reach some new intellectual level of an examined life. Maybe I will get to that some other time. I added the qualifier (Part 1 of n) to the post title since I figure this will be something I have to revisit from time to time as my research interests develop and evolve. Until then, you can check out my research page to see my current list of research interests and some recent publications and poster presentations.