Staff: David Ahern, Ph.D.

David Ahern

David Ahern, Ph.D.

Special Advisor
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David K. Ahern, Ph.D., is on special assignment to the National Cancer Institute under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) whereby he serves as a special advisor to both the Health Communications and Informatics Research Branch and the Healthcare Delivery Research Branch within the Behavior Research Program. In this role he assists the chief and staff of both branches in developing a research agenda in health and behavioral informatics to enable enhanced care across the cancer care continuum.

David focused his career on behavioral medicine, studying the intersection of behavioral and psychosocial factors with medical illness and early on recognized the importance of emerging interactive technologies in health and health care. David has published across a broad spectrum of illnesses - chronic pain, cardiovascular diseases, and somatization disorders. Over the course of a 35-year research career, he has assumed investigator roles on numerous NIH grants/contracts in the areas of chronic pain psychophysiology, behavioral and psychosocial aspects of cardiovascular disease, somatoform disorders, and eHealth. While on staff at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), David developed a nationally recognized Behavioral Medicine clinical and research training program and pioneered the use of innovative technology systems for outcomes assessment in health care. In 2001 he transferred his primary hospital appointment from MGH to the Brigham and Women's Hospital to continue ongoing collaboration with Dr. Arthur Barsky on research on hypochondriasis and unexplained medical symptoms. In addition to academic activities at Harvard, since 1997 he has been a senior scientist for a technology-based, health care firm in Rhode Island, creating a successful Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program resulting in over 15 grants and contracts.

In November 2001, David was appointed Program Director for a 7 year, $10.3 million national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Health e-Technologies Initiative (HeTI), which awarded grants and supported research to advance the science of eHealth. The program supported scientific research that involved (1) providers or provider-based networks; (2) health care organizations; and (3) voluntary and community organizations. In addition, special emphasis was given to studies that assessed efforts to reach specific diverse populations, including ethnic and racial minorities, older adults, low-income families, and disabled persons. Twenty-four grants were awarded under HeTI and over 50 scientific original manuscripts were published during the 7 years of funding ( HeTI provided a practicum opportunity for students in public health to learn about the role of technology in improving health and health care. The Initiative concluded its work in April 2009.

In May 2009, David was awarded a $750,000, 18-month development grant from RWJF to provide expert technical assistance and guidance to one of the signature national programs of RWJF, Aligning Forces for Quality. He was appointed as Director of the Health Information Technology Resource Center (HITRC) based at the Brigham & Women's Hospital, providing the 16 current active communities across the U.S. with near term value of HIT for improving health care quality. In September 2010 the HITRC received continuation funding of $372,094 to support ongoing technical assistance activities for AF4Q communities. Over the next 2 1/2 years the HITRC enabled many of the Af4Q communities to benefit from investments in HIT through ONC and Meaningful use. The work concluded in April 2013. In May 2010, David was appointed to direct the Program in Behavioral Informatics and eHealth to expand research initiatives at the intersection of health information technology and mental health within the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham & Women's Hospital. Current projects include an initiative to deploy and implement technologies for assessment and treatment of psychiatric disorders within the outpatient department of psychiatry and pursuit of grant opportunities in health information technology and mental health.

Since starting his IPA in November 2013, David co-edited a book titled Oncology Informatics with Drs. Brad Hesse and Ellen Beckjord that was published by Elsevier in spring 2016. He has also co-facilitated the President's Cancer Panel workshop series on Connected Health. David has also worked with the HDRP Branch to develop funding opportunities that leverage health information technology and connected health.

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