BONUS: The Return of Our Research Newsletter
March 7, 2023
Dan Gorenstein: Hey, Dan here. I want to tell you about a great way you can get more health policy news from Tradeoffs. It’s a newsletter we call Research Corner, and it delivers quick recaps of new important health policy research to your inbox every Tuesday.
Fun fact: Research Corner has been around since the summer of 2020, but this week we’re relaunching it and I’m excited to tell you about what we’re going to be doing and who is going to be doing it.
Music: Soleil Shah playing ukulele
DG: That, my friends, is Soleil Shah, our new Research Corner writer. Soleil, what’s up with the ukulele, dude?
Soleil Shah: Hey, Dan, just trying out some new sounds now that I’m an audio guy. I’m super happy to be here.
DG: Awesome. We’re happy to have you here. So, Soleil, until now, Research Corner has been this newsletter written by other health policy researchers.
Now we’re tapping you as people’s trusty tour guide through this really wonky world. And I’m guessing they might like to know a little bit of your backstory. So, Soleil, who are you actually?
SS: Yeah, Dan, so I’m originally from a small town in New Hampshire called Bow. From a young age, you know, I was always really interested in policy and then around college, I got really interested in science as well. I realized that medicine was kind of the perfect way to blend everything, you know, getting to learn about the science of disease, and then also understand the policies and systems that affect my patients’ care.
So I ended up getting a master’s in health policy. I came out to Stanford for medical school, just finished up, and I’m planning to start internal medicine residency this summer. I’m going to find out where I’m headed March 17th during the infamous match so definitely stay tuned for that.
DG: And we’re really excited that you can bring all of that perspective to this job and the role is really to be this kind of like curator, right? Wading through hundreds of journal articles that come out each week, which is astounding to think about. And really, you’re going to bring us one or two studies that could change the game or make us smarter about a bill Congress is considering or a deal that just went down on Wall Street.
SS: Yeah, I mean, the whole idea is really to make health policy research relevant – to take, you know, one study about something super specific and frame it in this broader policy context that you couldn’t necessarily get just from reading an abstract, let’s say. And, you know, the other thing is really to make this valuable data much more accessible and engaging. For example, I was reading through this like 100-page report on the impact of public health funding on HIV/AIDS, And even as someone with a master’s degree and someone who spent a lot of time studying this stuff, it really wasn’t the lightest reading.
But I was wondering, you know, what if we could explain these concepts to people who might not otherwise find these studies or have time to unpack them, but who could actually do something with that material, you know, change a business, pass a law…ultimately make health care work better for people?
DG: Yeah, no, in my mind, this is about getting health policy research out of sort of the white papers and the academic papers and really try to, like, make it more accessible for more people. And I know that you’ve been working hard getting a couple of these Research Corner newsletters ready. Can you give us a sneak peek, sir? Like what is coming down the pike?
SS: Absolutely. It’s really a wide range, Dan. So some of the things that I’ve been thinking about on Research Corner have been, for example, the rise in ransomware attacks on hospitals, this new practice of health systems billing their patients for messages. We got a wonky one coming out on risk adjustment and Medicare Advantage, which is definitely a hot topic.
DG: Risk adjustment. Love it, love it, love risk adjustment.
SS: Yep. And one a little bit more haunting, which is how a flaw in an FDA approval pathway could be leading to several unsafe devices getting on to the market and getting into hospitals.
DG: So I am very enthusiastic about this and what this work is going to be, and I feel like you’re well positioned to do some of this work. This whole journalism thing, though, is new to you. And I’m curious: You’ve done research in the past. You’ve done a lot of school. What’s the hardest part of this job with Tradeoffs so far?
SS: Yeah, Dan, I think it’s really kind of unwinding and getting aside of that academic conditioning and really just figuring out, you know, why should anyone actually care about this research that I’m writing about, right? How do I translate this super important research from this jargonous goliath to just 400 to 500 words of plain, engaging, English?
DG: Jargonous, okay sir. I see you, Soleil.
SS: I’m not sure it’s a word but I could say the same thing about a lot of things in the papers I read.
DG: We’re excited to have you on board, Soleil, and get our refreshed Research Corner out there. If this newsletter sounds good to you, you can subscribe at tradeoffs.org/research.
And like all of the work that we do at Tradeoffs, it’s better when our audience – you, the people who give a damn about health policy – tell us what’s on your mind.
So, Soleil, final question. How can our listeners help you? Like what is it you’d like from them?
SS: Yeah, you know, I would love to hear about any new studies that are coming out if there are conversations happening in the news, on the Hill and industry that could really use some data to back them up, would love to be plugged into that. And as always, any feedback on how I can improve my game either for Research Corner or on the ukulele.
DG: Yeah. You need some help with that ukulele, buddy. Speaking of the ukulele, Soleil, why don’t you just take us out and let’s hear a little bit more?
SS: You got it, Dan.
Music: Soleil playing ukelele
DG: Soleil Shah, everybody.
Check out his first Research Corner and get the newsletter every Tuesday by subscribing at tradeoffs.org/research. Want to drop Soleil a line? Find him on Twitter @soleil_shah. See you back here on Thursday.
Guest: Soleil Shah, MSc, Tradeoffs Research Reporter
The Tradeoffs theme song was composed by Ty Citerman, with additional music this episode by Soleil Shah. This episode was produced by Leslie Walker and mixed by Andrew Parrella.