Recently Recruited Department Heads
Spearhead Translational Research Initiatives

John Hinkner

John Hickner: Safer Patients

Department head and professor of family clinical medicine John Hickner, MD, MPH, figures his specialty takes the final step in bringing translational research to the front lines of care at the bedside.

“How do we take the work of specialists and apply it to the run-of-the-mill patient who walks into the clinic?” he says. “That’s where we tend to get interested and focused … at the far end of translation.”

The application of translational research to patient safety, particularly regarding safe use of medication, has been Hickner’s own focus. “In primary care, we’ve studied errors and how to do something about that in physicians’ offices, not hospitals,” he says. “A lot of my, quote, ‘research’ has really been supporting others and supporting networks of doctors working together to improve care.”

Hickner has started four such networks to bring research into practice, in addition to being the founding director of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He’s also worked on general health systems improvement, mostly focused on medication management, “reducing the costs of care and hopefully improving efficiency,” he says. “There’s a widespread belief that we do 30 percent to 40 percent more tests and procedures than are really needed to improve outcomes.”

Given the underserved nature of the patient population at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, Hickner says it’s important to apply the lessons of such translational research to that profile. “Our work is going to focus on pragmatic issues: management of common illnesses, appropriate testing, appropriate use of medication, and frankly, whatever else is of interest to our researchers.”