May 6, 2022

Richards and Nelson earn research awards


Honors from the Health Care Systems Research Network for early career achievements and manuscript of the year

Two researchers from Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) received awards at this year's Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN) annual conference in April in Pasadena, California. HCSRN is a network of 20 research centers associated with health care delivery systems. KPWHRI is a founding member.

Julie Richards, PhD, MPH, a KPWHRI collaborative scientist, earned the Early Career Investigator Award for her scientific abstract titled, “How patients answered 'Do you have access to guns? Yes/No' prior to suicide death,” which was selected for an oral presentation.

"We hope this work will help other health care systems considering firearm access screening to support suicide prevention,” Richards said. "I’m honored to share this award with many people, especially my amazing study team, support staff, and mentors.”

The study by Richards and colleagues, published in JAMA Network Open earlier this year, looked at death records and electronic health records of patients who had a mental health or substance use disorder diagnosis and had a visit to a Kaiser Permanente Washington clinic at which they were asked about their access to firearms in the year before death. The results support recommendations from major medical associations that health care professionals counsel patients at risk of suicide to limit firearm access, although no national practice recommendations for firearm access assessment currently exist.

Robert Greenlee, PhD, MPH, chair of the HCSRN Governing Board, noted that the Early Career Investigator award recognizes a rising researcher within the HCSRN ranks. “Dr. Richards’ important findings can potentially support improvement in outcomes during a critical mental health crisis by stressing the importance of firearm assessment with at-risk populations,” he said.

Studying COVID-19 vaccine safety

The HCSRN Scientific Manuscript of the Year award went to the publication "Surveillance for adverse events after COVID-19 mRNA vaccination," led by Nicola Klein, MD, PhD, a senior research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, and director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center. Jen Nelson, PhD, KPWHRI director of biostatistics, is a coauthor on the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"I'm honored to be part of this important work led by Nicola Klein," Nelson said. "It's a great example of public health benefits from the Kaiser Permanente Washington data that we contribute to the Vaccine Safety Datalink."

The paper was on the journal's most-read list of 2021 with nearly a half a million views and had an important effect on the adoption of 2 vaccines by providing reassurance that adverse effects were minimal. Klein was also recognized as Multi-Site Collaborator of the Year for collaborative research that includes Kaiser Permanente Washington.

Other researchers

Jennifer C. Nelson, PhD

Director, Biostatistics; Senior Investigator
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Suicide prevention

Doctor with patient sitting filling out form

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Vaccine Safety


Biostatisticians track COVID-19 vaccine safety

Dr. Jennifer Nelson explains how KP scientists are helping the CDC and FDA keep an eye out for rare adverse events.