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VA Health Systems Research

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Under Secretary's Award in Health Services Research

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Timothy J. Wilt, M.D., M.P.H., is the recipient of the 2014 Under Secretary's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research–the highest honor for a VA health services researcher. Dr. Wilt is a Professor of Medicine and staff physician at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and University of Minnesota Medical School; he's also a core investigator with HSR&D's Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research (CCDOR) and directs a QUERI Evidence-based Synthesis Program Center. Dr. Wilt has met the major criteria for this award by:

  • Improving our understanding of factors that affect the health of Veterans and the quality of their care,
  • Contributing to the future of VA health services research by inspiring and training a new generation of investigators, and
  • Enhancing the visibility of VA research through national recognition within the research community.

Dr. Wilt received his medical degree from the University of Illinois, completing his Internal Medicine residency at the University of Minnesota, where he also earned his Masters in Public Health degree in Epidemiology. Since 1987, Dr. Wilt has worked in General Medicine at the Minneapolis VAMC. In addition, Dr. Wilt has conducted outstanding research, particularly in synthesizing the evidence to provide clarity on several important issues. For example, he identified high-value diagnostic and treatment approaches for individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); established a more targeting role for antiviral therapy in individuals with chronic Hepatitis B infection; and ascertained an absence of evidence to support screening for delirium in hospitalized Veterans.

Dr. Wilt's work also has led to the development of national practice guidelines to implement high-value, cost-conscious healthcare, particularly in the area of screening. For example, his Prostate Cancer Intervention Versus Observation Trial (PIVOT), published as the lead article in The New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrated the lack of benefit and increased harms associated with radical prostatectomy for many men with localized prostate cancer compared to observation. In addition, given the lack of benefit of early detection and intervention for prostate cancer, most national evidence-based guideline committees called for a halt in PSA testing. Assuming a cost of $234 per PSA test and downstream care, this translates into a cost saving of about $560 million for the VA each year for the approximately 2.3 million Veterans who will no longer require yearly PSA screens.

Dr. Wilt also has had a profound effect on health policy by combining his expertise in evidence synthesis and meta-analysis with his roles on the VA Preventive Medicine Advisory Committee, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and the American College of Physicians Clinical Guideline Committee. Thanks to his leadership in developing breast cancer screening recommendations that more carefully balance benefits against harms, an average-risk woman can now expect to substantially reduce diagnostic- and treatment-related harms while maintaining health benefits by delaying her first mammogram to age 50 rather than age 40. Moreover, in addition to receiving 61 federal and medical-society sponsored research grants (40 as principal investigator), Dr. Wilt is a prolific author, with more than 300 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters. He also has mentored 17 physician or Ph.D. clinical investigators at the post-graduate level alone.

For his exceptional leadership and enduring dedication to health services research as a scientist, colleague, and mentor, Dr. Timothy Wilt is highly deserving of the prestigious Under Secretary's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research. Dr. Wilt plans to use the support provided by this award to bring together colleagues to develop a High-Value Care Center (HiVACC) in Minnesota. The Center's mission will be to define, identify, communicate, and implement high-value healthcare to improve the lives of Veterans. A major focus will be on improving healthcare value by reducing the overuse of low-value care.

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