Research fellow Elizabeth Magnan, MD, seeks ways to better care for patients with multiple chronic diseases.

Research fellow Elizabeth Magnan, MD, seeks ways to better care for patients with multiple chronic diseases.

For Department of Family Medicine (DFM) research fellow Elizabeth Magnan, MD, one of the biggest challenges in primary care is improving the health of people with multiple chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease.

In fact, her work is specifically investigating how people who have multiple conditions fare when it comes to controlling diabetes.

And with three years as a primary care research fellow under her belt, and a PhD underway, the Madison native looks forward to a career that blends health services research and patient care.

Defining Predictors of Diabetes Control

Dr. Magnan first became interested in the challenges of chronic disease management while a family medicine resident at Memorial Family Medicine in Houston.

“There were a lot of patients there who had diabetes, and especially uncontrolled diabetes,” she recalled. “Diabetes is so complex and takes a lot of self-management from the patient—and there are a number of complications that occur down the line.”

Her experiences came together as a more formal research question when she returned to Madison to pursue the DFM’s primary care research fellowship.

“What is the best thing for people to do with their health when they have multiple tests, doctors, medications, and diet changes to take care of it all?” she asked. “Where should they start and where can they get the best impact for their effort?”

To begin to answer those questions, she’s performing a retrospective chart analysis of Wisconsin patients who have diabetes to determine whether those who also have certain types of chronic conditions, had better or worse diabetes testing rates and control.

“When we can determine which patients are at risk for worse care, then we can develop interventions to use in the clinic to get the at-risk patients the care they need,” she explained.

This work is part of her dissertation—she is completing a PhD in clinical investigation through the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research—and will serve as data for future publications and grant applications.

Research Grounded in Clinical Experience

Dr. Magnan also has interests around what patients expect from the health care system, and what their perceptions are of health and illness.

She was the lead author on a paper published in Family Practice that found that patients who have a common cold—and the clinicians who care for them—cannot accurately predict the duration and severity of the illness, despite patient expectations that such predictions are possible.

She also coauthored a review of the clinical evidence for integrative approaches to diabetes care.

Dr. Magnan says that the DFM’s multidisciplinary research environment has helped her flourish as an emerging investigator.

But her clinical practice—she sees patients in outpatient clinics throughout UW Health—is where the rubber meets the road.

“Seeing patients helps keep my research grounded,” she said. ”Any interventions I develop will be based in my clinical experience.”

Published: April 2014