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Elisabeth Vodicka developed a passion for public heath research while managing the OpenNotes study, a health IT intervention that gave patients access to their doctors’ notes online at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. It was through this experience that she realized she wanted to dedicate her career to improving access to and delivery of health care.
Through her work, Vodicka understands that decisions about health care spending must be informed by the strategic evaluation of how much value a program or intervention creates. To learn more about the partnership between finance and health care, Vodicka pursued a Masters in Health Administration at the University of Washington, during which she received a Fogarty Fellowship to collaborate with researchers from the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Peru. While there, Vodicka explored the potential for pharmacies to improve access to care for hypertensive patients. Working in an international setting piqued her interest in research that can be applied across borders and motivated her to delve further into the field by enrolling as a PhD student in UW’s Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program (PORPP).
During her first year in PORPP, Vodicka teamed up with TREE researchers Marita Mann (another PhD student in PORPP) and Drs. Joseph Babigumira, Michael Chung and Lou Garrison, who are leading a cost-effectiveness analysis of cervical cancer screening methods at Coptic Hope Center in Nairobi, Kenya. To ensure that the analysis is based on current and locally-specific information, Vodicka and team designed and conducted a cost-finding study to assess the costs of three types of cervical cancer screening methods— VIA, Pap, and HPV DNA testing—in Nairobi.
Cervical cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer in Kenya and the most frequent cancer among women, and HIV-positive women in particular. The broad impact of cervical cancer means that using the most sensitive, accurate, and cost-effective method to identify precancerous lesions early is incredibly important. Vodicka’s study provides current cost estimates of each method used in Nairobi clinics serving primarily HIV-positive women. Under the mentorship of Drs. Babigumira, Chung and Garrison, Vodicka spent two months in Nairobi in 2014 quantifying the direct medical costs (e.g., supplies, provider costs), direct non-medical costs (e.g., transportation) and indirect costs (e.g., patient time) related to each screening method. Her research involved a time and motion study, as well as interviews with patients and staff at Coptic Hope Center and Kenyatta National Hospital. She is currently analyzing the data, and the results will be used to inform cost-effectiveness analyses conducted by TREE.
Vodicka believes that it is critical to ensure that “how we spend our health care dollars is evidence-based,” and plans to continue researching and presenting evidence to support decision-making in resource-limited settings throughout her career. Outside of school, she enjoys running (she is currently training for the Whidbey Island half marathon), adding new stamps to her passport, and cooking.