Steven J. Jacobsen

, Senior Director of Research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California. Dr. Jacobsen has served for 3 years on the Board of Directors and mentioned that he decided to serve on the board because, “I’ve been a member for quite some time and have been aware of the organization since beginning my training in 1983. I was in the shop that graded the entrance exams in the early years of the College (Yes, there was an entrance exam!). I hoped that my perspective from doing research embedded in a health care organization could add to that from colleagues from the traditional academic, industry and government sectors. I also believe quite strongly, that as epidemiologists, we can play a pivotal role in translating research findings into practice and I hoped I could help get that message out.” Dr. Jacobsen was also elected as an ACE Fellow in 1997 and he is currently the Vice-Chair for the ACE Awards Committee. He said that he initially decided to join the awards committee because, “I wanted to know more about the decision-making process and I hoped that I could help encourage members to nominate individuals who deserved the awards. I also hoped that I could bring my peer-review experience (grants, manuscripts and editorial boards) to help with the decision making.”

Dr. Jacobsen obtained a Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. He then went on and obtained a Master’s of Science in Biostatistics and an MD from the Medical College of Wisconsin and a PhD in Public Health Science (Epidemiology) from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Jacobsen started his career as an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota in 1991 where he moved up the ranks to Professor of Epidemiology in 1999 and was Chair of the Division of Epidemiology for 13 years. Dr. Jacobsen then moved to his current position at Southern California Permanente Medical Group. When asked about his career transition from a more traditional academic setting to a research position within a healthcare system, he said that, “it’s been an exciting change. But in many ways, it was an easy transition as both organizations (Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente) focus on providing high quality, evidence-based health care. In addition, in both settings, all of our work is being done in the public domain – which means I still have to chase funding opportunities and publish our results. However, prior to coming to Kaiser Permanente, I had been on a traditional academic track, with an emphasis on grant funding and publications in high profile journals. While having been successful, I felt a bit frustrated that my research wasn’t making palpable changes to public health or medical practice. In my position here at Kaiser Permanente, I’ve been asked to be sure that a significant part of our research portfolio addresses questions that can lead to practice changes. Our Department has a number of examples in which, through partnership with clinical/operational leaders, we have identified important questions and taken advantage of information collected through routine clinical care to evaluate practices. We’ve used these results to modify guidelines or institute other changes to improve quality and/or affordability.”

Dr. Jacobsen has had a very successful career and has over 450 peer-reviewed publications. Additionally, he has been very effective in obtaining research funding. He is currently the principal investigator of a number of studies and a co-investigator on many more. He mentioned that in order to be successful in obtaining grant funding, “probably the most important thing is persistence. Second is a focus on important questions for which the answers can have an impact. Just because something isn’t known doesn’t mean it’s worth knowing. And you really need to make the significance and potential impact crystal clear. Don’t rely on the reviewers to reach your conclusion on their own.”

Dr. Jacobsen can be contacted at Steven.J.Jacobsen@kp.org.