He says that Dr. Gabriel also brings personal attributes to her new position that are no less important than her professional experience. He recalls, “When we were talking to her about whether she wanted to be involved with the institute, her main concern was to evaluate if she had the time, because when she commits to something, she commits 110%. Her level of commitment was something that impressed me.”
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Explore This IssueApril 2011
He adds, “In working with her, I found that she is incredibly organized and efficient. She can take complex concepts and turn them around and produce information and give input on the information relatively quickly.”
I believe PCORI and its Methodology Committee provide an unprecedented opportunity for health and medical science to play a leadership role in America’s transformation toward a high-value healthcare system.
—Sherine E. Gabriel, MD, MSc
In an interview, the new chair of PCORI’s Methodology Committee discussed what drew her to epidemiology and patient-centered outcomes research and how she hopes her involvement with the institute will lead to advances in that area.
Dr. Gabriel, who earned her medical degree from the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine in 1982, observed, “When you’re a medical student you quickly learn that there is so much we don’t know, that so many questions remain. I’m one of those inquisitive people who feel compelled to do what they can to help find answers to some of those questions.”
Dr. Gabriel points out that her professional interests are usually at the patient and population level, rather than the cellular and subcellular level. “Improvements in health are much closer at the human level where, if you make effective changes, you can see improvements fairly quickly,” she says. “If you find something in a molecule or a cell, that’s very exciting, and maybe in 10 or 15 years it could have a huge impact on health. Or maybe not.”
Another attraction of patient-centered research, she says, is that “it seemed to me there was some low-hanging fruit there. There was knowledge that already existed that we were not implementing. If we just implemented it optimally, we could make people healthier.”
An example of low-hanging fruit is smoking cessation. “We’ve known for so long that smoking causes illness and premature death, but we still haven’t figured out how to eliminate smoking from the human race,” she says.
Her desire to concentrate on medicine at the human level led Dr. Gabriel to get an MSc in clinical epidemiology from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, in 1990, after completing an internal medicine residency and rheumatology fellowship at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.
One reason that Dr. Gabriel has high hopes that PCORI can help build a high-value healthcare system in America is the unusual structure of its board. Although her committee consists entirely of MDs and PhDs, the PCORI governors are a far more diverse group.