Michele Heisler, MD, MPA
Michele Heisler, MD, MPA, is the recipient of the 2019 HSR&D Daniel Deykin Award for Outstanding Mentor, which is presented each year to an HSR&D researcher(s) who exhibits outstanding dedication in mentoring the next generation of researchers. Skills of particular importance include fostering appreciation for the vital input provided by VA stakeholders, including VA policymakers and Veterans, as well as guiding mentees toward a thorough understanding of the positive impact research can have on the health and care of Veterans.
A senior investigator with HSR&D’s Center for Clinical Management Research (CCMR) in Ann Arbor, MI, Dr. Heisler’s research career has focused on chronic disease self-management. Dr. Heisler’s internationally recognized research also has mobilized the previously untapped potential of peer interactions to address the critical need for effective, low-cost, and sustainable approaches that provide ongoing support to adults with chronic conditions. She is a pioneer in developing peer-support models in diabetes and other chronic conditions, and the first to demonstrate their effectiveness in improving outcomes. In addition to outstanding work as a researcher, since 2002, Dr. Heisler has served as the primary mentor for 8 junior faculty members and 31 research fellows, 28 of whom have gone on to pursue productive careers in academic medicine.
Dr. Heisler’s strong commitment to VA--and conviction that it is the best nationwide system for improving health and social wellbeing among low-income adults in the US--has led many of her mentees to devote much of their research to improving healthcare for Veterans. For example, Dr. Alicia Cohen was a Family Medicine Clinical Scholar working on food insecurity issues outside VA. Dr. Heisler recognized that VA had instituted a food insecurity alert and was working hard to better screen for and address food insecurity. She helped Dr. Cohen identify individuals and units within VA to reach out to. Dr. Cohen is now a research scientist at the Providence VA Medical Center, and Dr. Heisler serves as her primary co-mentor on a VA Career Development Award submission focusing on food insecurity interventions in VA. Of Michele’s mentorship, Dr. Cohen states: “From introducing me to implementation science; to helping me hone my grantsmanship; to ensuring that my work includes key operations partners, is Veteran-centered, and that findings are disseminated in impactful ways, Michele has been an unparalleled teacher, advisor, and advocate.” Another mentee, Paula Anne Newman—an ophthalmologist committed to improving glaucoma self-management and outcomes among low-income and racial/ethnic minorities—states that Dr. Heisler “has served as an amazing role model. Watching her continuously bring together brilliant investigators from both inside and outside VA to accelerate important VA research demonstrated to me the power of team science and helped to ignite my interest in working at VA.” Dr. Newman is currently working to submit a proposal for HSR&D funding.
HSR&D thanks Dr. Heisler for her continuing contributions to improving the health and care of our Veterans, particularly through her exceptional mentorship.
HSR&D also greatly appreciates the Daniel Deykin Outstanding Mentor of the Year Nominees for their generous support of health services researchers; they include: