Member Spotlight

Q&A with Dr. Allison Lewinski

Allison Lewinski, PhD, MPH, RN

Health Services Researcher/Assistant Research Professor

Durham VA/Duke University

Q: Tell me a bit about yourself and your background.

A: My main goal is to help individuals live better lives and improve their health outcomes. I have a joint appointment between the Durham VA and Duke University. I’m a health services researcher at the Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation at the Durham Veterans Affairs Health Care System and an Assistant Research Professor at the Duke University School of Nursing. I enjoy learning and I’ve obtained several degrees on this pathway to lead me where I am today. I have a Bachelor of Science in Zoology, a Master of Public Health with a focus on health behavior and health education, a Bachelor’s in Nursing (that I received from Maryville University in St. Louis) and a PhD in Nursing. After getting a PhD, I completed a postdoc in health services research at the Durham VA. Prior to moving to Durham for my PhD, I worked as a nurse in St. Louis. I am in research because I want to improve clinical practice and population health outcomes. I like implementation science because I want to develop programs and practices that work in the real world. My research, mentoring, and teaching is informed by my clinical nursing and public health expertise.

Q: What is the most compelling information that you found in your research to date?

A: The majority of my research is in virtual care interventions such as mobile apps, wearables, virtual reality, and telehealth. Virtual care interventions really have the potential to increase access to health care because virtual care can help address barriers to access such as rurality, and transportation and physical challenges among other challenges. Yet, virtual care interventions are not one size fits all, as the uptake and adoption of virtual care interventions is not equal across groups. One compelling process aspect is how my clinical experience impacts how I think about and address problems. In nursing, before giving any medication, you check the ‘five rights’ of medication use – right patient, right drug, right time, right dose, and right route. With my research collaborators, we’ve taken to thinking about something similar with implementing virtual care interventions. To increase the effectiveness of virtual care inventions, while ensuring the optimal use of the health system’s resources, we discuss – is this the right patient for virtual care? Is this the right clinical need? Is this the right modality to meet the patient’s and clinician’s needs? Is this the right situation for virtual care? To answer these questions, I advocate for the use of qualitative and mixed methods research approaches. I think a compelling methodological aspect is how qualitative and mixed methods approaches are very diverse and can help us answer our most pressing questions about the implementation of virtual care interventions to improve health outcomes.

Q: Tell me about what you wish your research could solve right now and or a burning question that your research could answer in the future.

A: At this point in my career, my burning question is: How can we develop and implement person-centered interventions and programs to help people manage their chronic illness or illnesses? I strongly believe virtual care can facilitate the exchange of personalized information and support that are critical to living with, and managing, one’s chronic illness or illnesses throughout one’s life course.

Q: What type of services would be most useful for your developing career?

A: As an early career researcher, I appreciate services and opportunities that provide me with the skills and knowledge to grow personally and professionally. These opportunities include all aspects of one’s career such as writing grants, developing ideas, thinking through potential research trajectories, considering career options, and leading and mentoring other professionals. I also appreciate services that facilitate interactions to discuss the hidden curriculum of being a researcher. For instance, I like to meet and learn from colleagues to discuss work life balance, time management strategies, balancing capacity and bandwidth with new opportunities, negotiating, addressing conflict, having crucial conversations, and thinking through situations and challenges. I find these opportunities valuable because I learn and gain strategies and new perspectives on how to approach these difference personal and professional situations.

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