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Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Michael Cabana

For Dr. Michael Cabana, one of the most valuable parts of the Clinical Scholars program was the opportunity to focus on the “big” issues that affect medicine. “The Clinical Scholars fellowship is one of the rare opportunities in your career you get a chance to step back, where you’re allowed to not only focus on the question at hand, but also look at a broader picture,” he told us.

Cabana’s ability to view medical practice through the wide lens of health policy started when he was an undergraduate, where he majored in political science. At the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, he earned a Masters in Public Policy and Management simultaneously with his M.D., later training in pediatrics at the Harriet Lane Service at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Cabana’s solid policy background made him especially interested in doing further work on health policy, which is why he applied to the Clinical Scholars program. “I was interested in why different doctors treated the same disease so differently,” Cabana said of his Clinical Scholars project. “Actually, one of my projects when I was working with a former Clinical Scholar during medical school was putting together data to develop practice guidelines for treating gall bladder disease. And that research made me interested in seeing if doctors would adhere to the guidelines we developed. So when I was a Clinical Scholar, one of the projects that I did looked at why physicians didn’t follow clinical practice guidelines.” His research was later cited and helped influence a call for proposals by the National Institutes of Health to understand why physicians don’t always adhere to practice guidelines.

Cabana says that the Clinical Scholars program heightened his critical thinking and analytical skills, and put him in touch with a network of colleagues that would benefit him throughout his career. “The Clinical Scholars program helped me in so many ways—it allowed me to learn certain skills that I wouldn’t have picked up from any other type of training program,” he says. “The opportunity to work with outstanding clinical investigators, the chance to work one-on-one with great mentors and the ability to meet colleagues from different fields was really phenomenal.”

Cabana continued his research on clinical practice guidelines and has since looked at how variations in physicians’ practices can affect quality of care in patients, particularly patients with asthma. Cabana is currently the principal investigator for the Enhancing Pediatric Asthma Management Study, which seeks to improve the quality of care for pediatric asthma patients, and the Trial of Infant Probiotic Supplementation, which is testing a new treatment method for asthma patients. Cabana is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and a core faculty member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco. He also serves as Director of the Division of General Pediatrics at UCSF and he received the Nemours Foundation Child Health Services Research Award in 2006.

Cabana states that he would definitely recommend the Clinical Scholars program not only for the research training and networking it offers, but also for the opportunity to focus on intense and valuable research. “It’s as if someone gave me a much-needed two year sabbatical at the beginning of my career.”

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