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New Faculty Profile: Stephen Shortell

By Julia Sommer, Public Affairs
posted September 9, 1998

After 16 years as a professor of health services management and organization behavior at Northwestern University, Stephen Shortell has come to Berkeley to play a key role in bringing the three-year, joint MBA/MPH program to national prominence.

The first Blue Cross of California Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management and professor of organization behavior in the School of Public Health, Shortell will also be affiliated with the Haas School of Business and the Department of Sociology, where he will supervise graduate students in medical sociology.

Says Edward Penhoet, dean of the School of Public Health: "Dr. Shortell is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in health services research.

"He will significantly strengthen our school's outstanding programs in health policy and health management studies, and will be a key figure in the further development of our joint program with the Haas School of Business in health services management."

Shortell is pursuing research in three areas: integrated health systems, such as Kaiser Permanente; applications of Total Quality Management (TQM) in health care; and evaluating community health intervention. "I'm a very curious person. I like to ask questions and search for answers," he says.

His most recent book, "Remaking Health Care in America: Building Organized Delivery Systems" (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996), presents five years of research on integrated health systems. One of the co-authors, Robin Gillies, has come to Berkeley from Northwestern to manage Shortell's research projects.

Of US health care today, Shortell notes, "the problem of the uninsured remains. And there's enormous variation in quality of care -- by geography, site of care and across different sub-populations. The system remains highly fragmented."

Shortell is researching TQM as it applies to two major operations -- coronary artery bypass surgery and total hip replacement -- by measuring patient outcomes in mortality, complications, cost, patient satisfaction and long-term functional health status.

"I'm interested in what it takes to create greater value -- better health within constricted resources," Shortell sums up.

As for community health, Shortell is part of a large-scale evaluation of the Community Care Network. With 25 sites around the country, the network is attempting to establish public-private partnerships involving integrated health systems, churches, businesses, schools and health and welfare agencies to address chronic underlying community health care problems such as teen pregnancy, substance abuse and domestic violence.

Shortell has also brought a leading bimonthly research journal, "Health Services Research," and its assistant-to-the-editor, Alice Schaller, with him from Northwestern.

"I take satisfaction when my research is drawn upon by practitioners and policy-makers," says Shortell, who frequently addresses national health care meetings. He will also work with UCSF's Institute for Health Policy Research.

Shortell recently won two awards that bespeak his influence in the health care field: the Gold Medal from the American College of Health Care Executives -- its highest award for contributions to the field -- and the Distinguished Investigator Award from the Association for Health Services Research.

In the spring Shortell will teach "Strategic Management and the Organization of Health Services" and next fall a new graduate seminar, "Organizational Analysis of the Health Care Sector."

Shortell received his BBA in business administration in 1966 from the University of Notre Dame, then his MPH in hospital administration in 1968 at UCLA, "where I got bitten by the research bug," he says. At the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business he received his MBA (1970) and PhD (1972) in behavioral sciences, getting in on the ground floor of the boom in health services research.

At Northwestern Shortell was the A.C. Buehler Distinguished Professor of Health Services Management at the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Shortell says he made the move west primarily to return home, as both he and his wife grew up in California.

"But I was also attracted by the potential of Berkeley to be a national leader in health services and policy research and health services management," he adds.

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