New Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine Appoints Founding Dean

Physician, researcher and family-health advocate will lead medical school aimed at developing community health physician leaders.

PASADENA, Calif. — The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine Board of Directors has appointed professor of pediatrics, researcher, educator and health policy expert Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD, as founding dean and CEO of its School of Medicine, to be located in Pasadena, California.

Prior to his appointment, Dr. Schuster served as the William Berenberg Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and chief of general pediatrics and vice chair for health policy in the Department of Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital, since 2007.

In his role as founding dean, Dr. Schuster will oversee the day-to-day operations and unique direction of the School of Medicine. He will assume his position in October 2017.

"I'm excited to be a part of the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine's vision to transform medical education by combining cutting-edge educational techniques with a focus on population health, data analytics, patient engagement and underserved populations," said Dr. Schuster.  "Kaiser Permanente's leadership in integrated health care, which emphasizes keeping patients healthy while providing the best in care when they are ill, will offer an unprecedented learning opportunity for our students."

A physician, scientist and advocate for healthy families and communities, Dr. Schuster is recognized as an international leader in research on child, adolescent and family health, concentrating on topics such as quality of care, health disparities, family leave, obesity prevention and bullying. He currently leads the Center of Excellence for Pediatric Quality Measurement, which is developing and implementing measures aimed at improving the care provided to children and supporting patient- and family-centered care across the nation and beyond. He has also partnered with communities to document and address social determinants of health for children.

At the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, Dr. Schuster will lead the development of an innovative model of medical education, informed by Kaiser Permanente's rich clinical and population data, deep community engagement, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and personalized patient-centered care, leveraging the principles of Permanente Medicine and the unique attributes of the Kaiser Permanente system of care.

"We look forward to the visionary and inspirational leadership that Dr. Schuster will bring to our school," said Holly J. Humphrey, MD, Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine board chair and dean for medical education at the University of Chicago. "His insightful, evidence-based perspective, along with his commitment to the well-being of our students, patients and communities, are aligned with the practice of Permanente Medicine and will help catalyze the school's reach toward ambitious goals."

Before moving to Boston, Dr. Schuster served as professor of pediatrics and health services at UCLA Schools of Medicine and Public Health and director of health promotion and disease prevention at RAND, the Santa Monica think tank.

Dr. Schuster has written two books, including his co-authored "Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They'd Ask)," more than 200 journal articles, and numerous research briefs and reports. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) and has served as president of the Academic Pediatric Association. He is a recipient of the Richardson Award for lifetime achievement from the Society for Pediatric Research and the Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award from Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Schuster received his bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Yale, his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, his master's in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and his PhD from the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He completed his pediatric residency at Boston Children's Hospital and his fellowship at the UCLA Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program.

Dr. Schuster will reside in Pasadena with his husband, two sons and dog.

 About the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine

The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine will offer more than a conventional medical education: It will provide students with the unique opportunity to be taught by the physicians of Kaiser Permanente and immersed in one the nation's highest-performing health care organizations. Students will gain real-world experience in an environment that embraces diversity of thought, experience and culture, and values their wellness and total health. This approach will create physicians who have the knowledge, skills and passion to lead the transformation of health care in our nation and help diverse communities thrive. Learn more at

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Kaiser Permanente Researchers Develop New Models for Predicting Suicide Risk

Approach may offer value to health systems and clinicians in targeting interventions to prevent suicide

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Combining data from electronic health records with results from standardized depression questionnaires better predicts suicide risk in the 90 days following either mental health specialty or primary care outpatient visits, reports a team from the Mental Health Research Network, led by Kaiser Permanente research scientists.

The study, "Predicting Suicide Attempts and Suicide Death Following Outpatient Visits Using Electronic Health Records," conducted in five Kaiser Permanente regions (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, California and Washington), the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, and the HealthPartners Institute in Minneapolis, was published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Combining a variety of information from the past five years of people's electronic health records and answers to questionnaires, the new models predicted suicide risk more accurately than before, according to the authors. The strongest predictors include prior suicide attempts, mental health and substance use diagnoses, medical diagnoses, psychiatric medications dispensed, inpatient or emergency room care, and scores on a standardized depression questionnaire.

Dr. Simon shares what inspired him to study mental health.

"We demonstrated that we can use electronic health record data in combination with other tools to accurately identify people at high risk for suicide attempt or suicide death," said first author Gregory E. Simon, MD, MPH, a Kaiser Permanente psychiatrist in Washington and a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.

In the 90 days following an office visit:

  • Suicide attempts and deaths among patients whose visits were in the highest 1 percent of predicted risk were 200 times more common than among those in the bottom half of predicted risk.
  • Patients with mental health specialty visits who had risk scores in the top 5 percent accounted for 43 percent of suicide attempts and 48 percent of suicide deaths.
  • Patients with primary care visits who had scores in the top 5 percent accounted for 48 percent of suicide attempts and 43 percent of suicide deaths.

This study builds on previous models in other health systems that used fewer potential predictors from patients' records. Using those models, people in the top 5 percent of risk accounted for only a quarter to a third of subsequent suicide attempts and deaths. More traditional suicide risk assessment, which relies on questionnaires or clinical interviews only, is even less accurate.

The new study involved seven large health systems serving a combined population of 8 million people in nine states. The research team examined almost 20 million visits by nearly 3 million people age 13 or older, including about 10.3 million mental health specialty visits and about 9.7 million primary care visits with mental health diagnoses. The researchers deleted information that could help identify individuals.

"It would be fair to say that the health systems in the Mental Health Research Network, which integrate care and coverage, are the best in the country for implementing suicide prevention programs," Dr. Simon said. "But we know we could do better. So several of our health systems, including Kaiser Permanente, are working to integrate prediction models into our existing processes for identifying and addressing suicide risk."

Suicide rates are increasing, with suicide accounting for nearly 45,000 deaths in the United States in 2016; 25 percent more than in 2000, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Other health systems can replicate this approach to risk stratification, according to Dr. Simon. Better prediction of suicide risk can inform decisions by health care providers and health systems. Such decisions include how often to follow up with patients, refer them for intensive treatment, reach out to them after missed or canceled appointments — and whether to help them create a personal safety plan and counsel them about reducing access to means of self-harm.