January 22, 2014

Saul J. Weiner, M.D., Associate Director of the HSR&D Center of Innovation (COIN) for Complex Chronic Healthcare, has been named by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) as a recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Researcher Award. This award is presented by the UIC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, and is given to five researchers who have demonstrated outstanding research achievements in their field of expertise.

Dr. Weiner's research focuses on issues of access to care, the impact of culture and ethnicity on self-report of health indicators, and on medical decision making and the physician-patient relationship. He has extensively examined the problem of "contextual errors" in physician decision making, which occur when providers overlook factors specific to patients' life circumstances that are essential to planning appropriate care. Dr. Weiner received the award for groundbreaking research on causes of failures in physicians' ability to provide patient-centered or contextualized care. He and his UIC colleague, Alan Schwartz, Ph.D., pioneered a method for creating and validating standardized patient (SP) cases by using standardized patients played by professional actors. In work funded by VA HSR&D, Weiner and Schwartz performed an experiment using SPs visiting physicians undercover and wearing hidden audio recorders. The results of this study were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and revealed that contextual errors were pervasive and they further characterized the pattern of errors and costs of errors. This was the largest study using covert observation of physicians by SPs, a method receiving increasing attention from policymakers as a way to promote quality and patient safety.

In addition to his role with HSR&D, Dr. Weiner is also a Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and Medical Education, and Vice Provost for Planning and Programs at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He currently receives funding as a principal investigator from the Veterans Administration, and as a co-investigator from the National Board of Medical Examiners, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program.