PHYSICIAN WINS PRESTIGIOUS
Dr. Saul Weiner, an internist and pediatrician at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has won a four-year grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study how the poor obtain access to health care.
"As a first-year medical student, I remember watching uninsured patients negotiate their care with a front-desk clerk in a small family practice in rural New Hampshire," said Weiner. "I was struck by how much responsibility and power the receptionist at the front desk had in controlling access to care. She would decide who would see the doctor for free and who got turned away."
That experience a decade ago sparked an abiding interest in examining the problems of health care access for the medically uninsured.
With a $298,000 grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program, Weiner will study how large health care institutions ration services to medically indigent patients in the United States. More than 43 million individuals in this country are uninsured and a growing number are underinsured.
"In an increasingly competitive marketplace, health care institutions find it difficult to shoulder the costs of caring for these patients," said Weiner.
Weiner will analyze policies and accounting data, conduct surveys of self-pay patients and interview personnel at several health care institutions in the region to learn the reasons for bad debt and charity care.
A graduate of Harvard University, Dartmouth Medical School and the University of Chicago, Weiner has published several studies on access to care. He directs the UIC combined residency program in medicine-pediatrics.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program enrolls up to 15 outstanding junior academic physicians each year to advance the scholarship of doctors who are generalists.
Awardees receive up to $300,000 to support their research and four years of guidance from a nationally prominent adviser selected by the foundation. Award recipients work with a senior mentor at their institution. Weiner's adviser is Dr. Kenneth Shine, president of the Institute of Medicine; his mentor is Richard Warnecke, professor of sociology and director of the UIC Health Policy Center.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grantmaking in three goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to basic health care at reasonable cost; to improve care and support for people with chronic health conditions; and to promote health and reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse.
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