Harold S. Luft Mentoring Award 2020

We are delighted to announce that Mary Whooley, MD has been selected as this year's recipient of the Harold S. Luft Award
for Mentoring in Health Services and Health Policy Research, awarded by the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies.

Please note:  Due to the  current COVID-19 restrictions on in-person gatherings, and our desire to
properly honor Dr. Whooley's accomplishment, we will have a joint award ceremony and reception
in the summer of 2021 to honor both Dr. Whooley and the 2021 Harold S. Luft Mentoring Award recipient. 

Mary Whooley, MD, FACP, FAHA Photo
    Mary Whooley, MD, FACP, FAHA

Mary Whooley, MD, FACP, FAHA, FACC, FAMIA* is a primary care physician, health services researcher, Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, and Director of the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Medical Effectiveness (CHIME) at the San Francisco VA (SFVA) and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Board certified in Clinical Informatics, she also serves as director of the national VA Measurement Science Quality Enhancement Research Initiative, SFVA site director for the UCSF Fellowship in Clinical Informatics, and SFVA site PI for the Million Veteran Program. Her current work is focused on using national electronic health data to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery.

Dr. Whooley’s early career was dedicated to the interactions between mental and physical health, particularly depression and cardiovascular disease. In 1997, she validated a 2-question screening instrument for depression that is now known as the “Whooley Questions” and used worldwide. To determine why depression is associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes, she designed and conducted "The Heart and Soul Study," a prospective cohort study of 1024 patients with coronary heart disease who were enrolled between 9/00-12/02 and followed for 20 years. This study demonstrated that the excess risk of cardiovascular events associated with depression was not explained by the expected biological mechanisms (e.g., increased catecholamines or inflammation), but rather by poor health behaviors, especially physical inactivity. The Heart and Soul Study also provided biospecimens and clinical data that enabled other investigators to evaluate important questions in cardiovascular outcomes research, producing over 175 publications. 

Learning that health behaviors were responsible for the adverse cardiovascular outcomes associated with depression led Dr. Whooley to embark on improving participation in cardiac rehabilitation (CR). Exercise-based CR is an evidence-based, cost effective therapy that reduces secondary cardiovascular events and mortality, but it is woefully underutilized in the United States. In a pivotal study, Dr. Whooley and her mentees demonstrated that the largest barrier to participation in CR was logistical: patients were unable to attend CR programs because it was offered only on weekdays and at medical facilities. To address this barrier, Dr. Whooley and her team developed and implemented a new telephone-based CR program at the SFVA. With funding from the VA Office of Rural Health and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, this program quadrupled participation in CR and resulted in similar clinical outcomes as compared with facility-based programs. Based on these findings and others, a 2019 scientific statement was jointly published by 3 national societies recognizing home-based CR as an effective alternative to traditional CR programs.

Dr. Whooley was an undergraduate at Yale University and completed her MD at Boston University School of Medicine. She did her residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine, followed by a fellowship in Health Services Research, at UCSF. Dr. Whooley’s work in cardiovascular outcomes research was recognized by election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2011 and the Association of American Physicians in 2014. Her work in home-based CR was recognized by the 2018 Research Professor Award from the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and the 2019 Michael L. Pollock Established Investigator Award from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.  She has coauthored over 250 research publications.

* Fellow of the American College of Physicians, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Medical Informatics Association

The Harold S. Luft Award for Mentoring in Health Services and Health Policy Research recognizes UCSF faculty who are engaged in the multidisciplinary field of health services and/or health policy research (HSR/HP), provide targeted mentoring in these specific areas, and in their mentoring roles, demonstrate the qualities exemplified by Dr. Luft. Health Services and Health Policy Research covers a range of topics, including how social factors, financing processes, health technologies, laws and regulations, and personal behaviors, among other factors, affect access to health care, the quality and cost of health care, and ultimately, our health and well-being. The main goals of this research are to identify the most effective ways to organize, finance, and deliver high quality care; reduce medical errors; and improve patient safety.

Excerpts from letters nominating Mary Whooley:

“From my first project with Mary through today, she has been an incredible advocate and source of support. Mary has done everything from offering to cover my faculty salary if a K award didn’t come through to providing the staff, equipment, and expertise to help me establish the prospective cohort that became the foundation of my research program. Without fail, she has answered every call and email quickly and gladly. Despite having so much on her plate, she always makes time to take one last look at a grant, help navigate a complex administrative task, or provide moral support when challenges arise. She is nothing short of tireless in her devotion to her mentees and colleagues.”

“Mary has mentored over 50 trainees who have published one or more first-author manuscripts with her, and several have gone on to become department chairs and chiefs, senior research faculty, and leaders in health services research. Mary has also severed as the primary mentor for six K awardees in the divisions of general internal medicine, cardiology, and nursing and served as co-mentor for several others.”

“It is clear that Mary doesn’t just want her mentees to be productive- she wants them to be fulfilled and thriving. She achieves this through an open-door policy and unwavering support and encouragement. Regardless of how busy Mary is and what her mentees need, she always makes herself available. She also serves as an incredible role model for success in balancing work and life with her accomplished career, dedication to her family, and service to community causes. Mary has inspired so many young researchers and her importance in our lives is evidenced by our continued academic relationships and friendships years and even decades.”

“…in an institution of skilled researchers and outstanding mentors, Dr. Mary Whooley stands out for her remarkable devotion to her large and multidisciplinary cohort of mentees, genuine enthusiasm for research, and incredible leadership ability.”

“I am always in awe of the great ideas she draws on the white board and the level of expertise in statistics and methodology she brings to the group. Despite her extraordinary level of intelligence, she relates on an individual basis so that others learn very easily from her. She has a gift of infusing laughter and fun while being deep in thought and giving fully of herself to the discussion topic - whether it be with individuals, small working groups, or large conference groups.”

“She is extremely well-connected across VA and UCSF, and she uses that for the advantage of others. Dr. Whooley makes an extra effort to connect people to answer questions or work together. During one-on-one meetings, she will often go to her computer to seek out answers or share resources she has related to any of the issues I bring up. Her resourcefulness is a product of her deep engagement with all the people that she meets locally and nationally.”

“The third quality of mentorship that Dr. Whooley embodies is generosity in supporting her mentees’ research programs. Her philosophy she has shared with me on more than one occasion is that the ‘pie is big enough for everyone.’”

“Dr.Whooley is a master at discovering new opportunities for her fellow researchers and her mentees to take apart of. Beyond research, Dr. Whooley goes out of her way to celebrate successes. I will always remember the celebration party she planned for me at the San Francisco VA with the research office personnel after I received the Notice of Award. Dr. Whooley also hosts an annual holiday party at her home where she invites 20-30 researchers, many who are junior faculty, where she takes the time to write and read the accomplishments of every individual in the room over the past year… amazing! It is a great time of hearing about everyone’s successes, but we can all point back to Dr. Whooley for helping us achieve those wins.”

“In my 18 months since joining the UCSF faculty, I could not have possibly imagined a better, more supportive mentor than Dr. Whooley. She has had an immensely positive, meaningful impact on me and my professional career as a developing health services researcher – and will continue to in the years to come.”

“Dr. Whooley has been a deeply supportive mentor on both personal and professional levels. She is among the kindest people whom I have ever met. She always asks not only about my young children, but also my parents (whose home burned down…) with genuine care and concern. She offers thoughtful guidance to balance personal and professional spheres. Dr. Whooley often has the answers – and when she doesn’t, she always knows how to help me think through them with integrity and balance.”

“Because of this mentorship, within just 6 months of coming to UCSF, I had an abstract on my research accepted as a poster presentation for the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research meeting in Arlington, VA. Dr. Whooley helped me to revise the abstract and poster multiple times until they were as strong as possible, teaching me skills for strong presentations. This abstract was also chosen as a “Top 10%” poster and invited for presentation at the main American Heart Association Scientific Sessions meeting in Philadelphia last November.”

“She has the strongest of commitments to mentorship and has made an indelible positive impact on me, guiding me to conduct high-quality, policy-relevant research. I am sincerely grateful for her extraordinary dedication to my success as a junior faculty member. This is a deep-seated commitment that Dr. Whooley has demonstrated to all her mentees, including other junior faculty, fellows, residents, and students. She has - and will continue to – shape my career in the best of ways and enable me to make contributions that can improve the care of patients with cardiovascular disease.”

Previous recipients of the Harold S. Luft Mentoring Award: https://healthpolicy.ucsf.edu/harold-s-luft-award-mentoring-2020