Division of Research - 60 Years of innovation

60 years ago, Morris F. Collen, MD, recognized the potential of combining the power of information technology with clinical care and sophisticated data analytics. Since its inception in 1961, Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research has become internationally respected for research that transforms health by discovering the key drivers of health and disease and identifying effective and efficient ways to deliver health care.

1960s

The 1960s: Creation of the Division of Research

1961

1961

1961

Morris Collen, MD, becomes founding director of Medical Methods Research, later renamed the Division of Research, leading from 1961 to 1979.

1962

1962

1962

The Division of Research receives its first grant from the U.S. Public Health Service to automate the multiphasic exam.

1963

1963

An IBM 1440 computer is used to store patient clinical data collected in the early detection of disease. The fledgling information system stored patient identification data, physician examination and patient history data, lab results, and EKG and X-ray interpretations.
Learn more about computers screening for better health

1966

1966

1966

The Division’s Edmund (Ted) Van Brunt, MD, pilots a computer-based patient medical record system with a database that supports both patient care and health services research. Kaiser Permanente becomes one of a handful of places in the world to start this pioneering work.

1970s

The 1970s: Early pioneers of an integrated medical record

1970

1970

1970

Investigators including Ted Van Brunt, MD, Morris Collen, MD, and colleagues publish a study about a “pilot medical information system” providing services for limited categories of patient data. This would go on to be known as the electronic health records system.

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1973

1973

A computer medical record now exists for all health plan members. These earliest records are still used in research today, and they allow the Division of Research to develop a data-based research agenda.

1979

1979

1979

Ted Van Brunt, MD, becomes second director of DOR, leading from 1979 to 1991.

February 1979

February 1979

Investigators publish in the New England Journal of Medicine on mortality in middle-aged smokers.

1980s

The 1980s: A major research operation in epidemiology

1985

1985

1985

The Division opens a research clinic to support the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study — a longitudinal study of heart health and disparities that continues to this day and has resulted in more than 600 published papers.

1985

1985-2

The Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center is founded to monitor vaccine safety and effectiveness.

1986

1986

1986

The Medical Methods Research Department changes its name to the Division of Research.

December 1987

December 1987

First CARDIA paper appears in the journal Controlled Clinical Trials.

1988

1988

Kaiser Permanente oncology clinical Trials (KPOCT) is established, enrolling hundreds of Kaiser Permanente patients each year in mostly multicenter, Phase 2 and 3 cancer studies.

January 1988

January 1988

A research team looks at the effectiveness of flexible sigmoidoscopy. Findings result in the Kaiser Permanente Colon Cancer Prevention Program and lead the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to recommend colorectal cancer screening for the first time.

Learn more about the current status of a medical information system

November 1988

November 1988

A study of KPNC members links alcoholic beverage use to colon and rectal cancer.

Learn more about htis study

1990s

The 1990s: Ushering in large-scale collaborative research

1990

1990

Vaccine Safety Datalink project founded in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with DOR’s Vaccine Study Center a founding site.

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1991

1991

1991

Gary Friedman, MD, becomes DOR’s third director, leading from 1991 to 1998.

1993

1993

1993

Morris Collen, MD, is honored by the American College of Medical Informatics (ACMI) as the first recipient of the highest honor it bestows, the Morris F. Collen Award of Excellence for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Medical Informatics.

1993

1993-2

The confidential Member Health Survey begins. Conducted every 3 years, the survey explores sociodemographic and health-related characteristics of the adult membership of Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Learn more about the Kaiser Permanente multiphasic evaluation study

1994

1994

The Division is a founding member of the HMO Research Network (now the Health Care Systems Research Network), ushering in an era of large-scale collaborations seeking to integrate research and practice for the improvement of health and health care in diverse populations.

1994

1994-2

The Division of Research is 1 of 40 clinical centers selected to enroll participants in the groundbreaking national Women’s Health Initiative, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Learn more about WHI

1998

1998

1998

Joe Selby, MD, MPH, becomes DOR’s fourth director, leading from 1998 to 2011.

2000s

The 2000s: A new era of DOR collaborations

September 2004

September 2004

September 2004

A DOR research team publishes a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that shows chronic kidney disease increases a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, or death.

November 2004

November 2004

The Division of Research receives a $10 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study whether lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and use of complementary and alternative medicine impact recurrence and survival rates for women with breast cancer.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente researchers evaluating whether lifestyle changes improve prognosis for women with breast cancer

February 2006

February 2006

The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study — the largest randomized trial to look at diet and breast cancer risk — reports in JAMA that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and fiber does not lower risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

Learn more about the low-fat dietary pattern and risk of invasive breast cancer

April 2006

April 2006

A comprehensive colorectal cancer screening study is launched that would go on to show how an integrated screening program can save lives.

Learn more about leading on screening for colorectal cancer

February 2007

February 2007

February 2007

The Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health (RPGEH), now one of the largest such research projects in the United States, is established to examine genetic and environmental factors that influence a wide variety of common diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente unveiling groundbreaking genetic research program

April 2007

April 2007

Study of more than 132,000 children suggests link between autism and advanced maternal and paternal age.

Learn more about risk of autism rises with age of moms, dads

2008

2008

DOR establishes the Comprehensive Clinical Research Unit (CCRU) to support clinical trials conducted by DOR research scientists and clinicians from The Permanente Medical Group across a variety of specialties. In 2018, this becomes the Clinical Trials Program.

November 2008

November 2008

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides $7.5 million over 5 years to establish a collaborative Cardiovascular Research Network within the HMO Research Network to better study the epidemiology, prevention, management, and outcomes of cardiovascular diseases.

Learn more about the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute creating a national network to study cardiovascular disease

2009

2009

DOR receives a $25 million Grand Opportunities grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct genotyping on 100,000 Kaiser Permanente members participating in the Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health, the largest population-based biobank in the United States.

2010s

The 2010s: Mentoring the next generation

2010

2010

Kaiser Permanente researchers alert the CDC to preliminary evidence of an increased risk of febrile seizures following measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV) vaccination compared with separate MMR and V vaccines. CDC then recommends that families without a strong preference for MMRV should receive separate MMR and V vaccines.

Learn more about this study

April 2011

April 2011

DOR joins Mental Health Research Network, whose first project is an autism registry.

Learn more about the autism registry

2012

2012

The Division becomes the lead site for the Cancer Research Network, a National Cancer Institute-funded initiative to support research in non-profit integrated health care delivery systems on all aspects of cancer care, from etiology through survivorship.

July 2012

July 2012

July 2012

Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, becomes fifth director of DOR, leading from 2012 to the present.

Learn more about DOR nameing Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH Its Fifth Director

November 2012

November 2012

The Division celebrates its 50th anniversary, with four of its five directors, scientists and staff, and leaders of Kaiser Permanente Northern California and The Permanente Medical Group.

Learn more about the DOR’s 50th anniversary

2013

2013

2013

The Delivery Science Fellowship Program is established to train postdoctoral fellows on identifying and implementing best practices for delivering care to diverse populations. The program has since attracted nationwide interest.

August 2013

August 2013

Researchers report in JAMA that Kaiser Permanente Northern California nearly doubled the rate of blood pressure control among adult members with diagnosed hypertension between 2001 and 2009 through one of the largest, community-based hypertension programs ever developed.

Learn more about large-scale Kaiser Permanente program linked to improved blood pressure control

June 2014

June 2014

DOR research contributes to development of a neonatal sepsis risk calculator, safely reducing newborn antibiotic use by nearly 50 percent.

Learn more about the neonatal sepsis risk calculator

September 2014

September 2014

September 2014

A celebration of life takes place upon the death of Morrie Collen on September 27, 2014.

November 2015

November 2015

Trial of the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) technique finds benefit in adolescent substance use problems.

Learn more about this study

2016

2016

First study of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis in a diverse, real-world setting is cited as one of the most important papers of the year by NIAID Director Anthony Fauci.

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January 2016

January 2016

Kaiser Permanente research published in Annals of Internal Medicine shows an annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is an effective screening tool for detecting colorectal cancer.

Learn more about this study

May 2017

May 2017

A comprehensive Enhanced Recovery After Surgery program implemented in Kaiser Permanente’s 20 Northern California medical centers is found to reduce postoperative complication and opioid prescribing rates.

Learn more about this program

June 2017

June 2017

June 2017

DOR launches Physician Researcher Program with a mission to cultivate the research that drives evidence-based medicine.

Learn more about this program

August 2017

August 2017

A team led by DOR researchers developed a practical tool for identifying diabetes patients at highest risk for ending up in an emergency department or hospital due to severe hypoglycemia.

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December 2017

December 2017

DOR study finds concerning increase in cannabis use by adolescents and pregnant women.

Learn more about this study

January 2018

January 2018

January 2018

Recognizing the importance of early multiphasic exams, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History takes ownership of some DOR punch cards to help share an important part of our country’s health care history.

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May 2018

May 2018

May 2018

The Permanente Medical Group and DOR establish the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program to foster collaborations between clinician-investigators and DOR scientists. DARE provides infrastructure, connections, and analytic support to clinician-researchers for answering questions that will change care.

May 2018

May 2018-2

May 2018-2

Kaiser Permanente data helps create street-level view of the health Impacts of air pollution in Oakland.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente data helping create street-level view of the health impacts of air pollution in Oakland

December 2019

December 2019

Researchers find that significantly increasing minimally invasive surgery for hysterectomies reduced racial disparities in the types of hysterectomies patients get.

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2020s

The 2020s: Tackling new health care mysteries

April 2020

April 2020

April 2020

Division of Research publishes study in JAMA showing wide age range of adults hospitalized with COVID-19, dispelling idea only older adults were being hospitalized with COVID-19.

Learn more about this study

May 2020

May 2020

Research scientists publish some of the first papers to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer screening and heart attack and stroke care.

Learn more about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer screening and heart attack and stroke care

July 2020

July 2020

Autistic youth transitioning to adulthood have unique health needs and need assistance from the medical community, according to research from DOR’s Autism Research Program.

Learn more about clinicians needing to build bridges to transition care for young adults with autism

August 2020

August 2020

August 2020

The Vaccine Study Center joins the clinical trial for Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, enrolling adults and later teenagers aged 16 and 17, adolescents aged 12 to 15, and children aged 6 to 11.

Learn more about this study

November 2020

November 2020

November 2020

DOR predictive analytics specialists teamed up with nursing and hospital leaders to create the Advance Alert Monitor system, which identifies hospital patients at risk of rapid deterioration. In an analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the system is associated with lower mortality.

Learn more about real-time in-hospital alerts associated with lower patient mortality

July 2021

July 2021

July 2021

Health systems could use data from routine clinical care to identify the onset of upcoming COVID-19 surges as many as 6 weeks before they occur, researchers reported in a study published in BMJ Open.

Learn more about this study

September 2021

September 2021

A study in JAMA of 6.2 million patients by Kaiser Permanente and CDC researchers found no serious health effects linked to the 2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, findings also reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and CDC publications.

Learn more about this study

September 2021

September 2021-2

September 2021-2

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found a method to remove race from controversial kidney function equations without losing accuracy. The findings helped inform new National Kidney Foundation-American Society of Nephrology Task Force guidelines on evaluating kidney function.

Learn more about this study

October 2021

October 2021

October 2021

Kaiser Permanente researcher will co-lead $32.7 million colorectal cancer screening study to focus on older adults with low-risk polyps.

Learn more about this study

February 2022

February 2022

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that KPNC’s regionwide, structured colorectal cancer screening program eliminated disparities in outcomes between Black and white adults.

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March 2022

March 2022

March 2022

Researchers published findings in JAMA Internal Medicine showing that COVID-19 infection more than doubled the risk of severe complications during pregnancy.

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