Submitted by Robert Cook, Public Affairs, Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (Bedford VA)
Dr. Dan Berlowitz never stops thinking of ways he can improve the overall health of Veterans here at the Bedford VA Medical Center as well as VA system wide.
His curiosity, combined with his dedication to this goal, recently resulted in his being awarded the 2015 Under Secretary’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research at a ceremony in Philadelphia. The Under Secretary’s Award is the highest honor a VA health services researcher may receive.
Dr. Berlowitz, who has served as the Bedford VA’s Acting Chief of Staff for the past three years, is modest about this recognition. But he is also proud of the research he has undertaken that has improved Veterans health care. “It’s a great population to work with. The Veterans really appreciate the things that we do for them,” said Dr. Berlowitz. “It’s a service that’s important. It’s been a very good environment.”
Dr. Berlowitz was recognized for several research studies centering on the themes of improving understanding of factors that affect the health of Veterans and the quality of their care. As an example, his research into the care of Veterans with hypertension led to important changes at the VA. Dr. Berlowitz found that “clinical inertia” – the failure to intensify therapy when indicated – was a major cause of Veterans high blood pressure not being treated properly.
This study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Berlowitz et al, 1998), demonstrated that clinical inertia was common in hypertension management, it could be measured, and that more intensive therapy was associated with improved blood pressure control. These findings led to a reevaluation of uncontrolled hypertension. Subsequently, VA implemented a quality improvement initiative nationally based on this research. Hypertension control rates are now well over 70 percent, in large part due to reducing clinical inertia.
“The work really changed the focus of how people thought about hypertension,” said Dr. Berlowitz. The old school way of thinking was that patients were to blame for not taking proper care of themselves if they suffered from high blood pressure but the research showed that if early signs of hypertension were treated when indicated, there was an overall improvement in high blood pressure control.
Dr. Berlowitz believes more research is needed to develop stronger protocols and interventions in order to better serve Veterans. He is honored to be recognized for his work in an area he believes is vital. He credits the staff and the distinctive nature of the Bedford VA Medical Center for helping him gain this national recognition. “Bedford is a very unique place and there is not another VA hospital like this.”