Split science: Imperfect evidence and health care reform

This article originally appeared in the fall 2012 edition of Bridges, the School of Medicine’s alumni magazine.

When the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a controversial recommendation to end most PSA-based screening for prostate cancer, it kicked off a fiery national debate. At OHSU, key faculty physicians staked out polar positions. Now, OHSU finds itself squarely in the middle of a debate with far-reaching implications, even on health care reform itself.

Roger Chou, M.D. R ’98, has learned to take the heated debate in stride.

In addition to seeing patients in his primary care practice, Dr. Chou is director of the Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center at OHSU (see Aug. 2012 news release). The center is one of 11 nationwide funded by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Dr. Chou and his colleagues have gained a national reputation for excellence in evidence reviews. With more than 200 reports to date, the team evaluates topics ranging from acute head injury treatments to screening for adult hearing loss. The vast majority of these evidence reviews are routine and non-controversial. But a few have pushed the center’s research onto the national stage, such as the 2008 evidence review on which the USPSTF recommendation to reduce the frequency of mammography was based, igniting a national media frenzy in the midst of the already tense health care reform debate.

“Sometimes you do need thick skin,” Dr. Chou said.

Continue reading in the fall 2012 edition of Bridges.