UC San Diego Receives $5 Million to Launch Center for Learning Health Systems Science

The center will provide training for clinicians and researchers in the science of optimizing health care delivery

photo of Cene, Tai, Hogarth
The new center will be split into three cores, which will be led by (from left to right) Crystal Wiley Cené, MD, MPH, Ming Tai-Seale, PhD, MPH and Michael Hogarth, MD. Photo credit by UC San Diego Health Sciences.

University of California San Diego School of Medicine has received a $5 million, five-year grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to establish a Center for Learning Health Systems Science. The center will provide instructional and experiential learning opportunities for clinicians and researchers in learning health systems science, an emerging interdisciplinary field that seeks to improve health care delivery within modern health systems.

“Health systems across the world often face similar problems, such as poor utilization of resources, rising costs and disparities in access to care,” said Ming Tai-Seale, PhD, MPH, a professor of family medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and principal investigator on the new grant. “I envision that the new center will help our researchers and clinicians understand and overcome these system-level challenges and accelerate our progress toward a highly reliable learning health system.”

In a learning health system, research and clinical practice are seamlessly interwoven to bridge the gap between available evidence and its application in the clinic or at the bedside. Best practices are continuously updated as more evidence becomes available, improving patient outcomes and enhancing health care efficiency.

“Improving health care isn’t always about developing new treatments,” said Tai-Seale. “It’s also about improving the way we deliver health care through improving patient-provider communication, helping underserved populations access care and even reducing burnout among health care workers. In a learning health system, all of these complex factors affecting health care can be studied systematically while simultaneously bringing new knowledge into clinical practice.”

Because health care delivery involves many moving parts, learning health systems science requires a high degree of interdisciplinary collaboration. To meet these needs, the new center will foster collaboration among UC San Diego faculty across eight different departments, who will serve as mentors to the learning health system scientists who receive training through the center.

“It’s important to us that the center’s impact extends beyond UC San Diego Health into the surrounding community,” added Tai-Seale.

The center will include three cores, which will each serve individual functions. Tai-Seale will lead the Administrative Core, which manage and provide oversight for the center. Michael Hogarth, MD, professor in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, will lead the Research Data and Analytics Core, which will provide data science expertise to scientists within the center.

“Data science is a critical part of learning health systems science,” said Hogarth. “Because there are so many different components to a learning health system, there are lots of different types of data involved. We want to provide a centralized and reliable place for scientists in the center from all different disciplines to manage and analyze their data.”

Crystal Wiley Cené, MD, MPH, will lead the Research Education core, which will support research projects and provide mentorship opportunities to scientists within the center. Cené serves a dual role as the chief administrative officer for health justice, equity, diversity and inclusion at UC San Diego Health and associate chief medical officer for health equity.

“One of the goals of the center is to increase the diversity of the learning health systems science workforce,” said Cené. “We’re doing that by recruiting diverse trainees for the center, and we also have researchers from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds as mentors and faculty to support these trainees.

Trainees in the center will take courses through UC San Diego to learn the principles and practices of learning health systems science. In their second and third years of training, trainees will be empowered to complete their own projects and put their findings to practice in the clinic.

“A true, complete learning health system is still just an ideal right now, but this center will bring us significantly closer to achieving that ideal,” said Tai-Seale. “We hope that this initiative will improve health care here within San Diego county and establish us as a world leader in this new and evolving approach to improving health care.”

The title of the grant, awarded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, is “UCSD Center for Learning Health Systems Science” (1P30HS029770-01).


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