News Center for Advancing Health Services, Policy & Economics Research Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging Public Health Data & Training Center

Institute for Public Health adds co- and associate director roles

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health

The Institute for Public Health announces the addition of new co-directors and associate directors to three of its seven centers. The additions will help advance the Institute’s mission to harness the strengths of Washington University in St. Louis to address complex health issues and health disparities facing St. Louis and the world.

The Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging is pleased to announce the addition of Brian Carpenter, PhD, as co-director alongside Nancy Morrow-Howell, PhD. Carpenter is a professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Arts & Sciences and professor in the Division of Palliative Medicine. His work centers on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and on research examining what people know about dementia and how best to educate them. He is interested in similar research questions regarding palliative care and end-of-life care, and on examining family relationships later in life. His teaching focuses on aging, mental health in older adults and interdisciplinary teams in geriatrics.

Carpenter says his goal as co-director is to expand the center into a hub for education, research, and service to the community, so that everyone can reach their potential as they grow older.

Societal aging is a global phenomenon that affects every facet of life, regardless of major, discipline or career. Our center helps make people aware of aging as a demographic trend. And, of course, every one of us is aging, and there are things we can do now, at any age, to make sure we live the healthiest, fullest life possible.

Brian Carpenter, co-director, Friedman Center for Aging

The Public Health Data and Training Center is pleased to add Hilary Reno, MD, PhD, as co-director. Reno is the medical director of the St. Louis County STI/HIV Prevention Training Center, a CDC-funded training center that provides clinical training and technical assistance for clinicians and programs in sexual health topics and HIV prevention. In order to reduce rates of infection, Reno’s research focuses on factors that lead to sexually transmitted infections in at-risk individuals.

Reno says she’s excited to work with the center on advancing existing projects and engaging with communities, regional health departments, and other partners in exploring how public health data can bring new ideas and cooperation to our region’s top public health issues. Reno adds that she is also enthusiastic about engaging with students and offering training that can enhance their future careers.

One thing we do not lack is public health data, but having data that is timely and put to use for maximum impact is the challenge! Our center is engaged in projects that examine existing public health data and how it can effectively build cooperative, community-focused data infrastructure and engagement in order to affect public health practice and policy. We want to offer training and collaborative efforts that work to advance these projects and others that directly affect people and communities.

Hilary Reno, co-director, Data Center 

As part of its transition from the Center for Health Economics & Policy, the new Center for Advancing Health Services, Policy and Economics Research adds two associate directors. Abigail Barker, PhD, is the center’s associate director for policy partnerships and the new associate director for research is Kenton Johnston, PhD, MPH. Both will work alongside Center co-Directors Karen Joynt Maddox, MD, MPH and Timothy McBride, PhD.  

In her new center role, Barker will continue to help enhance the center’s Transforming Healthcare in Missouri series and, she says she has a goal of bridging the gap between policymakers and researchers by helping researchers understand the types of questions policymakers grapple with, so that they can design impactful research that is responsive to those needs.

In my more than three years working with Medicaid’s Office of Transformation, I see firsthand clinical and public health researchers focused on a health-related issue, who are unaware that a key policy variable is lurking at the heart of their research topic. I believe I have a unique opportunity to bridge these gaps.

Abby Barker, associate director for policy partnerships, Center for Advancing Health Services, Policy and Economic Research

Kenton Johnston, the center’s new associate director for research is an associate professor of medicine in the General Medical Sciences Division at WashU’s Department of Medicine and the founder and director of the Medicare Innovation Research Lab. There, his work focuses on Medicare, value-based payment, managed care, risk adjustment, and vulnerable populations. Johnston’s new center role will include expanding its research footprint by building out a set of cutting-edge health services, policy and economics research labs.

This is a fast-growing field in medicine and public health, focused on improving health care quality, outcomes, equity, and affordability. As a result, there are many opportunities for NIH, foundation, and private equity support. In the Washington University community, our center is a one-stop-shop for students, trainees, faculty, and other researchers to learn about our field, collaborate with us on interesting projects, and to develop skills in administrative data that answer health services, policy, and economics research questions.

Kenton Johnston, associate director for research, Center for Advancing Health Services, Policy and Economic Research

The leadership and staff of the Institute for Public Health welcome these new and transitioned personnel!