Palo Alto Medical Foundation Newsroom

AHRQ Grant Funds Patient-Centered Outcomes Research

UCSF, San Francisco General Hospital Team up with PAMF Research Institute

In July 2012, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute (PAMFRI) was awarded a two-year, $883,000 training grant by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The effort is called PARTNERS, an acronym for Patient-centered outcomes research: Applied Research TraNsforming Engaged Real-world Systems. It is a collaboration of PAMFRI, an outstanding research unit embedded within a health care delivery system, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (SFGH) and its network of community health clinics.

“To be more than just a collection of peer-reviewed publications, research needs to be assessed and adopted, often with adaptations, in real-world settings,” said Harold S. Luft, Ph.D., director of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute. “This requires researcher understanding of the constraints, expectations and time frames of such settings. Such understanding leads to much better research.

“Scholars in the two-year PARTNERS training program will already have both the clinical and research skills to undertake excellent research, but want to learn about doing such research embedded within, or in true partnerships with, delivery systems. They will be engaged in on-going projects with their mentors as well as developing their own projects in multidisciplinary teams in the three sites.”

A significant component of this research is PAMFRI’s collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

Ralph Gonzales, M.D., MSPH, professor of Medicine at UCSF and director of the Implementation Science program with the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at UCSF, will supervise the PARTNERS program at UCSF.

“The AHRQ PARTNERS program provides a new mechanism for supporting UCSF clinical faculty who conduct patient-centered outcomes research that is embedded within our own hospital and ambulatory care delivery system,” Dr. Gonzales said.  “This will help to further establish UCSF as a leader in the science of health care delivery.”

“The scholars selected for the AHRQ PARTNERS will be able to respond to the opportunities and challenges associated with Healthy San Francisco and national health reform,” said Margot Kushel, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, and director of the SFGH site. “Building on UCSF’s strengths in implementation sciences and patient centered outcomes research, this program will help us to build a cadre of outstanding clinician scientists involved in delivery system redesign.”

“The Affordable Care Act provides not only funding for increased insurance coverage, but also for research to understand what health care is valued most by different patients and how best to deliver that care,” said Dr. Luft. “The AHRQ has funded health research over the years, but this this new program concentrates on training new cohorts of researchers to focus on patient-centered outcomes.

“Typically, you have a smart researcher in an academic setting using existing data or finding a delivery system willing to share data. That’s just one bite of the apple—the researcher rarely knows how the data were created or what they really mean. With our approach to fostering deep collaboration between researchers and delivery systems, we can get better information and make better sense of it. We have not just one bite of the apple, but the ability to wander through the entire orchard and truly understand why things are the way they are.”

This round of AHRQ funding is only open to clinicians who already have strong research skills and want to go beyond the academic world and potentially seek research careers in non-academic settings.

“A huge advantage of this collaboration is that the clinician researchers will be embedded in the care delivery systems at UCSF, San Francisco General Hospital and Palo Alto Medical Foundation medical centers,” Dr. Luft said.

A total of three trainees will be selected from the applicant pool. Each will be based at one of the collaborating sites, where they will work with ongoing teams and have strong mentoring to also develop their own research agendas.

Drawing an analogy to the hockey great Wayne Gretzky, Dr. Luft said, “We are training people not to focus on how things are, but ‘to skate to where the puck will be.”

The application process is now open at:

Media Contacts:

Kristen Bole, UCSF University Relations, 415-476-2743,

Cynthia Greaves, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, 650-934-8614,