News Center for Advancing Health Services, Policy & Economics Research

Two new WashU faculty engage with center on matters of health equity and policy

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

Sunny Lin, left, and Kenton Johnston

Sunny Lin, PhD, MS, assistant professor and Kenton Johnston, PhD, MPH, associate professor, both new to the General Medical Sciences Division of WashU’s Department of Medicine, are the latest faculty to engage with the Center for Health Economics and Policy at the Institute for Public Health. Both are involved in research that assesses health equity and policies serving vulnerable populations. We caught up with these two colleagues to discuss their most recent projects and how working with the center might benefit their research.

Drs. Lin and Johnston bring unique and important expertise to WashU, and both have a significant focus on health equity. Having them as faculty scholars at the institute, will help us continue to create impact at the local, regional and national level to advance health equity and reduce longstanding health disparities based on race, income, disability, and geography.

Karen Joynt Maddox, MD, co-director of the Center for Health Economics & Policy

Sunny C. Lin, PhD, MS, studies the intersection of healthcare policy, health information technology (HIT), and healthcare services research and works to improve care delivery for underserved populations. Most recently, Lin’s work examines whether Medicare’s accountable care organizations (ACOs) and their delivery structures work for organizations serving a high proportion of racial and ethnic minorities. Lin is interested in understanding how public policies, such as payment incentives, may create unintended consequences. In her most recent project, Lin’s research finds that recent changes to the way we pay for care may actually be hurting patients who need care the most.

“I am excited to engage with the center because of the diverse backgrounds, interests, and expertise of their community,” said Lin. “I came to WashU because of the incredible research community here. I’ve heard a lot about how supportive everyone is of each other’s work. My hope is to get to know as many people as I can over the next few months and learn how my research interests and skillsets can complement what other people are doing—and expand and enhance my own.”

Previously at Saint Louis University, Kenton Johnston recently joined the School of Medicine at Washington University as director of the new Medicare Innovation Research Lab, starting up this fall. Johnston’s research focuses on Medicare, value-based payment, managed care, risk adjustment, and vulnerable populations. His latest projects “assess how well the Medicare program is meeting the health needs of patients with disabilities, mental health conditions, and dementia.” Johnston says that because Medicare is not a homogenous program, he is evaluating how non-standard components of Medicare, such as accountable care organizations or managed care plans, compare to standard care in meeting the needs of these patient groups.

“I am a health services researcher whose primary focus is on health economics and policy so I’m excited to connect with other researchers across the University to share our works in progress with one another, learn from one another, and build a community of scholars and culture of excellence in health economics and policy,” Johnston said.

Both faculty members plan to become part of the Institute for Public Health Faculty Scholar Program, which works to support, connect and amplify faculty work in public health. Read more about program eligibility and get involved!