Vanness joins Department of Health Policy and Administration

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Department of Health Policy and Administration (HPA) at Penn State has recently welcomed a new member to its faculty, appointing David Vanness as professor.

Vanness’ teaching and research helps decision-makers to assess the value of health care and policy interventions. 

“I'm thrilled to be joining the faculty of the Department of Health Policy and Administration at Penn State,” Vanness said. “I am a strong advocate of the public service mission of land-grant higher education institutions.”

Vanness’ research specifically focuses on applying the methods of Bayesian statistics to decision-making with the idea that experts are constantly learning about the processes that drive health outcomes and costs and that they can use measurements of remaining uncertainty to guide future research. 

“The definition of value necessarily includes both health outcomes and cost, but exactly how those factors are assessed and combined depends on perspective,” Vanness said. “Much of my work is quantitative — from the design of prospective trials and patient registries, to the analysis of real-world evidence collected as part of the healthcare delivery process. However, much of what I am most interested in measuring is inherently qualitative, like how a patient (or society) perceives and assigns value to changes in quality of life resulting from successfully treating a health condition.” 

Vanness comes to Penn State from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, where he served as associate professor of population health sciences. He also held roles as faculty affiliate in the UW Carbone Cancer Center, the Center for Demography and Ecology, the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and at the La Follette School of Public Affairs, also at the University of Wisconsin. 

He currently works with the National Marrow Donor Program / and the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplantation Research to assess the value of hematopoietic cell transplantation and engineered cellular therapies for patients with blood cancers.

“Technological innovation in these areas has been astounding, yet patients and caregivers often struggle with the ‘financial toxicity’ associated with high prices and limited insurance coverage,” said Vanness. 

He recently completed a patient engagement project sponsored by PCORI to develop a patient-centered research agenda for transplant and cellular therapies.  

“I have found myself learning from collaborators in a wide range of disciplines, including epidemiology, sociology, demography, biostatistics, engineering, psychology and clinical research,” Vanness said. “I am looking forward to breaking new ground with colleagues throughout the University Park campus and at Penn State Hershey, and to sharing my knowledge with the next generation of scholars and practitioners of health policy and health administration.”

Christopher Hollenbeak, professor and head of the Department of Health Policy and Administration, said the department is looking forward to working with, and learning from, Vanness. 

“Dave is internationally recognized for his methodological expertise. He is doing really innovative empirical work using Bayesian methods and machine learning in health services research. He is also a highly sought-after mentor,” Hollenbeak said. “We are very excited to have him as part of HPA.”

Prior, Vanness served as visiting scientist for the Center for Health Economics, Epidemiology & Science Policy at the United BioSource Corporation in Bethesda, Maryland, and as assistant professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He was also a research collaborator in the department of health sciences research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  

Vanness received his doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000. From 1999 to 2003, he held positions as associate and senior associate consultant in the department of health sciences research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. 

He is a member of the editorial board of the journals Medical Decision Making and Medical Decision Making – Policy and Practice, and a frequent ad hoc member of the NIH Health Services, Outcomes and Delivery (HSOD) review panel. He is also inaugural co-chair of the Statistical Methodology in Health Economics and Outcomes Research special interest group of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR).

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Last Updated August 24, 2018