Faculty Spotlight: Lesley Curtis, PhD

Friday, July 11, 2014

For this week's faculty spotlight we talk to Dr. Lesley Curtis, Professor of Medicine and Director for the Center for Pragmatic Health Services at the DCRI about her work, research in electronic health records (EHRs), and time with family.

LCurtis CroppedHow long have you been at Duke? How long have you been at the Division?
I joined the Duke Clinical Research Institute in October, 2000 and was appointed to faculty in the Division in April, 2003.

What does a typical day for you at the Division look like?
Most days (when I’m not traveling), I’m in my office at the DCRI, leading calls, meetings, and discussions about how we can make optimal use of electronic health data to answer important questions and inform clinical practice. My group and I work extensively with large observational data sets including Medicare claims data, national clinical registries, and longitudinal epidemiological cohort studies. I spend a substantial portion of my time leading efforts to build a national electronic health data platform for monitoring drug and device safety (FDA’s Mini-Sentinel) and for interventional and observational comparative effectiveness research (PCORI’s PCORnet).

In addition to working at the Division, you're also the Director for the Center for Pragmatic Health Services at the DCRI. What does that work entail?
The Center’s charge is threefold: (1) to develop innovative approaches for using electronic health data to conduct high-impact, pragmatic research studies, and (2) to develop training programs to ensure the next generation of researchers, data scientists, and operations experts understand how to use these rapidly evolving sources of electronic data, and (3) to serve as a hub for “big data” in health services and population health research. On any given day, we’re actively pushing all three priorities forward—at least a little!

What research project(s) are you working on at the moment?
One of the more unique and exciting projects in my portfolio is a EHR-based substudy alongside a pragmatic clinical trial. We’re examining the fitness of EHR data for use in populating the baseline case report form and for trial follow-up. Although there’s growing consensus that clinical trials can become more efficient by using EHR data to streamline baseline data collection and support long-term follow-up, the assumption that EHR data are fit for use in high-quality clinical research hasn’t been rigorously evaluated.

What's one thing you like to do when you're not working at Duke?
Most of all, I like to spend time with my family—Sydney (16), Graham (12), and husband Brent (ageless).