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SGIM Annual Meeting: HSR&D’s Recognition and Contributions

April 26, 2021


The Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) is a national medical society of 3,300 physicians who are the primary internal medicine faculty of every medical school and major teaching hospital in the United States. In addition, SGIM members also conduct research to improve primary care, preventative measures, and health treatment services. This year’s virtual SGIM Annual Meeting, Transforming Values into Action, was held from April 20-23, 2021. Numerous HSR&D researchers participated in the conference and two HSR&D investigators received prestigious awards.

Stephan Fihn, MD, MPH received the ACLGIM Division Chief’s Recognition Award, which is given to the General Internal Medicine (GIM) Division Chief who most represents excellence in Division leadership. Dr. Fihn retired from the VA healthcare system in 2018 after 36 years of service, in which he earned HSR&D’s Under Secretary’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research. Of his many contributions toward improving healthcare for Veterans, one of the most important was helping create the Clinical Assessment, Reporting, and Tracking System for Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories (CART-CL) – a system-wide tracking system for Veterans undergoing cardiac catheterization.

Stefan Kertesz, MD, MSc, an HSR&D investigator and part of the Birmingham VA Medical Center, Birmingham, AL, received the SGIM David Calkins Award in Health Policy Advocacy, which recognizes the “extraordinary commitment that many members make when they choose to advocate on behalf of SGIM.” One of Dr. Kertesz’s primary research focuses is on access to quality addiction and medical care for homeless and other under-served populations. To hear Dr. Kertesz discuss this topic, visit the HSR&D podcast page.

HSR&D Meeting Contributions

HSR&D investigators participated in several SGIM sessions, panels, presentations, and special interest groups on topics that included health equity, community care, obesity treatment and prevention, diabetes prevention, depression screening, pain management, and opioid prescribing. In addition, HSR&D researchers led the following workshops:

  • “Addressing Inequity through Mentee-Focused Mentorship,” led by Christine Hartmann, PhD;
  • “Developing and Evaluating Communication Strategies to Increase Firearm Safety Practices among Veterans,” led by Steven Dobscha, MD; and
  • “VA’s Transformation to a Whole Health System of Care: Implementation and Evaluation of a Whole Person, Patient-Centered Approach to Care,” led by Barbara Bokhour, PhD.

Contributions to the fight against COVID-19

HSR&D also made contributions to the ongoing exploration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Karen Seal, MD, presented research on “Vitamin D Levels and Corresponding Risk for COVID-19-Related Hospitalization and Mortality: Results from a National Cohort of VA Patients.” This was the first national study to show that lower levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of hospitalization related to COVID-19, as well as mortality in a diverse cohort of VA patients. Vitamin D appears to have positive effects on the body’s immune system related to COVID-19; it also is widely available, relatively inexpensive, and safe for most individuals at therapeutic doses. Rebecca Tisdale, MD, MPA – a Lipkin Finalist – presented her work on “Disparities in Virtual Cardiology Visits among VA Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Findings show that while virtual cardiology care expanded dramatically in VA (10% in March 2020 vs. 71% in April 2020) to partially compensate for fewer in-person encounters during the pandemic, some Veterans with higher needs were less likely to use virtual care (telephone or video), including older Veterans, those living in rural areas, marginalized racial groups, Veterans with lower income, and those with more chronic health conditions.


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