Sky over San Francisco, September 9, 2020

Interim Notes 

The sky yesterday morning was an eerie orange, with smoke high overhead creating an apocalyptic mood. News reports have out-of-towners worrying about us. Typically I joke that I’ll take our earthquakes (or whatever) over their blizzards. But it is getting harder to maintain sangfroid. After months of pandemic illness and mass unemployment along with police killings of black people and attacking peaceful protestors, the heat waves, fires, and smoke feel like final straws.

As Interim Director, I attended the monthly School of Medicine Chairs and Directors meeting last night, which focused on the human cost of these stressful times. We are probably only a third of the way through the pandemic; our campus and work routines will not be “normal” until summer 2021. How can we do better to support our people? What creative ways have the School’s leaders identified to relieve our collective stress? Attendees shared some great ideas about programs to support people and boost morale. The theme was kindness. Keep front of mind that we are under stress and much-needed breaks are hard to get. Kindness is a categorical imperative for all and something to be especially mindful of for those who are most vulnerable — those with greater financial stress, those caring for young people suddenly at home, and those missing loved ones who are far away or self-isolating. Kindness is not just for the interim. We should use this cascade of crises to integrate kindness into our lives as an everyday and permanent priority.

Dan Dohan


Mara Decker, DrPH, is an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. She oversees a portfolio of applied research projects and evaluations focusing on sexual and reproductive health both domestically and globally.

She is the Principal Investigator of a randomized control trial that combines in-person health education with digital technology and was designed with youth. In addition, she directs the evaluation of California’s sexual health education programs and a bi-national qualitative study of pregnant and parenting adolescents. Her research interests include the intersection between health and other developmental issues including policies, human rights, social ecology, and empowerment. Most of her work involves mixed qualitative and quantitative methods and is dedicated to identifying and reducing health disparities. Read More
“Ask the Policy Doctor”
A Blog from IHPS Faculty Member Jim Kahn

Insurance, opioids, pandemics — we’ve got big, complicated health problems. What solutions are Trump and Biden proposing? What difference will it make?

You’ve got questions; PRL-IHPS Professor Emeritus Jim Kahn, MD, MPH has answers. Dr. Kahn is a medical doctor with 30 years’ experience at the University of California studying these issues. He has written hundreds of influential scholarly papers on health care, US and global health agency reports, and editorials. He appears on radio and TV, and in documentaries.

Now, Dr. Kahn will explain key health issues as we approach election day. He’ll offer insights into our insurance system and how to improve it, as well as facts about other health issues and the science behind them.

Check out his blog on Medium, and send him questions you want answered, or to receive the link to the weekly live Zoom sessions (Thursdays at 3pm PT)  at [email protected].  


Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, as part of a team of researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and UCSF, conducted the first national hospital survey to measure adoption of electronic health record (EHR) functions that support care for older adults, and electronic health information exchange and communication with patients, caregivers, and long-term care providers. Results are reported in a new article published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics AssociationRead more

COVID-19 created an opportunity to quickly innovate and discover the suitability of remote learning for a preclinical medical school course focused on health systems science and social justice issues, specifically for health ​equity topics that are emerging as core content in a modern medical education.  In a recent Medical Education Online article, medical educators and researchers Megha Garg, MD, MPH,  Archna Eniasivam, MD and Daniel Dohan, PhD, detailed their experience of quickly converting a course to asynchronous learning.  Read more

Childhood asthma is a leading cause of emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, missed school days, and missed work days for caregivers, with total estimated direct costs of approximately $6 billion annually in the US.  In a multisite study of ED pediatric asthma pathway implementation, Sunitha Kaiser, MD, MSc, and colleagues found that pathway implementation was associated with improvements in multiple measures of quality of care for children with asthma.  Results of the study were recently published in The Journal of Pediatrics.  Read more


In a recent article published in Spine, Sigurd Berven, MD, and colleagues shared their findings from comprehensive models they created using administrative claims data (State Inpatient Data) and machine learning to predict discharge to facility, 90-day readmissions, and 90-day major medical complications after long segment lumbar spine fusion. Read more

IHPS faculty are responding to policy challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic with rapid-cycle research and technical assistance. A compilation of their work to date is available on a webpage that is updated regularly. One recent publication is Andrew Auerbach, MD and colleagues,  "Hospital Ward Adaptation During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Survey of Academic Medical Centers" in The Journal of Hospital Medicine. Read more

PRL-IHPS Faculty In The News

COVID-19 Epidemiology
Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo:
California’s coronavirus contact tracing efforts hampered by lack of bilingual staff (San Jose Mercury News)
More testing, contact tracing needed in city’s Southeast, doctors say (Mission Local)
Why Trump shouldn't compare America's Covid-19 outbreak to New Zealand's in one chart (Vox)
Lack of Leadership Worsened the Pandemic; Not Young People (Yes! Magazine)
Dangers of third coronavirus surge in California focus on young people, essential workers (Ponca City News)
Coronavirus: Some Bay Area beaches will close for Labor Day. Is it necessary? (San Jose Mercury News)
Latinos make up 71% of coronavirus cases in largely white Marin County. Will new equity efforts help? (San Francisco Chronicle)
UCSF/24th St. COVID-19 study reveals 11% Latinx infection rate (Mission Local)

Jahan Fahimi:
Amid coronavirus surge in California, hospital workers say they're not protected (NBC News)

Kim Rhoads:
Eastmont Mall Site of Mass COVID-19 Testing Event on Aug. 22-23 Led by Dr. Kim Rhoads (Post News)

Hilary Seligman:
Pandemic leaves poor exposed, hungry (Sentinel)

Adams Dudley:
Flu Study Highlights Difficulty of Achieving COVID-19 'Herd Immunity' (Healthline)

Maria Raven:
Evidence Suggests This Flu Season Won't Be As Bad, Face Masks To Thank (KCBS)

Environmental Health  
Tracey Woodruff:
This Chemical Can Impair Fertility, but It’s Hard to Avoid (New York Times)

Jahan Fahimi:
Cotton Masks Won’t Protect From Wildfire Smoke That Can Worsen COVID-19 Symptoms, Doctors Warn (CBS Sacramento)
Wildfire Smoke Creating Problems For COVID-19 Patients, At-Risk Residents (KPIX CBS San Francisco)
Wildfires, coronavirus collide in California to create a "perfect storm" (Salon)
Wildfire smoke in California may increase coronavirus risk, experts say (Washington Post)

Anisha Patel:
Green Space: The many benefits of free, tasty tap water
(San Francisco Examiner)

Health Policy and Education
Naomi Bardach:
Is Your Child’s School Ready to Reopen? (New York Times)
UCSF doctor explains why COVID-19 transmission among kids are infrequent (KGO-TV)
When is it considered safe enough to reopen California’s classrooms?
(Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Regional: Some Classrooms Will Reopen For Child Care, Though No In-Person Instruction (SFGate)
Newsom nears pivotal decision: Should California try to reopen again?
(Prescott eNews)
COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on people experiencing homelessness (Los Angeles Times)
Reproductive Health
Cynthia Harper:
Contraceptive Access, Robot Bias, Story Structure. August 14, 2020, Part 2 (WNYC Science Friday)
How Telemedicine Can Help People Access Birth Control During the Pandemic (Healthline)
Monica McLemore:  
What we can learn from efforts to address the Black maternal health crisis during COVID-19 (Center for Health Journalism)

Sugar Science
Rob Lustig:
Can Artificial Sweeteners Keep Us From Gaining Weight? (New York Times)

Stan Glantz:
Vaping makes young people up to seven times more likely to get coronavirus, study finds (The Independent)

About The Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies

The Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (PRL-IHPS) contributes to the solution of complex and challenging health policy problems through leadership in research, training, technical assistance, and public service. Our special competence lies in translating research across disciplines and fields to inform health policy. We undertake this work with a commitment to improve health and health care within local, state, national, and international communities and with a focus on improving the health of vulnerable populations.

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