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5 Questions with Faculty: Diane Dewar

Health reform expert Diane Dewar. (Photo by Mark Schmidt) 

ALBANY, N.Y. April 19, 2017 — Diane M. Dewar is the director of the Institute for Health System Evaluation at UAlbany, as well as an associate professor in the departments of Health Policy, Management and Behavior, and Economics.

“The Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior was very young and growing when I was told that there was a tenure track position open in it, and I was intrigued by the prospect of being in a department that was still forming,” Dewar said, describing her start at UAlbany in 1994. “I was encouraged to apply, applied, got the job, and have been on the faculty of this department, with a joint appointment with the Department of Economics.”

What are your working on now?

I think that the health care sector domestically and globally are huge components in countries’ GDP, and need to be evaluated. While I do a lot of evaluations of various system level reforms through the institute that I direct, my current work about health care reform is really front and center in my third book, which is under contract with Routledge Publishers and slated to be in print later this year.

This book is on health reform, using an international perspective focuses on the basic similarities of population and system problems across the world and how we are all addressing them. Specifically, it looks at the paradigms for equity and efficiency in health care as well as what the U.S. can learn from other countries as we pursue reform efforts.

The U.S. has a very challenging and fragmented system of health care. What can we do locally and nationally to streamline delivery of services, improve access and health outcomes and change the mindset of the American public to think more collectively about health care resource allocation and the health for the population?

What made you decide to pursue your field?

As a health economist, I have always been curious about the tradeoff between equity and efficiency in health care delivery. How can we distribute services fairly for the underserved but at the same time get the biggest bang for the buck in for the services that are utilized overall? These are not often easy or compatible goals, and I found myself spending a lot of time looking at financial influences in service utilization and guidelines for appropriate care.

I see the healthcare industry as the “elephant in the room” in terms of huge resource allocations in the country and in regard to tough decisions about big problems such as who shall get services and even who shall live.

If you weren’t teaching at a university, what would you be doing?

I would most likely be in a research institute. I find research questions to be fascinating puzzles and I love to try to figure out new methodological techniques and solutions to applied and theoretical questions. It’s fun to work on foundational innovations as well as applied research.

In a research setting, there is an intellectual curiosity and sense of creativity that abounds. I have seen this first hand at a previous position as a research scientist some time ago at Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s research foundation.

What’s the best thing about working at UAlbany?

The people. The faculty and research staff are dedicated to what they are doing personally and collectively and the students constantly amaze me with their experience, tenacity and intellectual curiosity.

What was your first job?

I got my first job when I earned a BA in economics, and I was appointed the statistician for the New York State Lottery. It was at first daunting to be the only staff statistician for the agency, but I soon loved to work on the market analysis for the game Daily Numbers as well as design new odds calculations and payouts for various permutations of the Lotto Game.

When I left this position to complete my MA in economics and then was on the job market for other positions, I found it quite amusing that interviewers for subsequent jobs often did not really focus on questioning my statistical abilities but rather how to win at Lotto!

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