PhD Student Wins Inaugural VHA Home Health Care Award Supporting Children with Medical Complexity

December 20, 2017

closeup pen on medical record application form. medical concept.

The field of family centered care and children with medical complexity is an area of research that has yet to be fully examined as it relates to our health system, but Francine Buchanan, the inaugural winner of the VHA Home Healthcare Graduate Student Award supporting Children with Medical Complexity, is ready and willing to take on that challenge.

When Buchanan’s son Cristiano was in the hospital for the first year and a half of his life, dependent on a feeding tube and ventilator, she encountered firsthand many of the communication and information problems that can plague health systems. “Sitting next to my son in the ICU, I was often trying to figure out why or how the physicians used the information we as parents provided them, and how we were incorporated as a member of our son’s care team,” said Buchanan who is also a PhD candidate in Health Services Research at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. “Watching nurses take notes on patient charts might not be searchable was a glaring problem for me, and part of the reason why I chose to pursue my research in the Health Informatics stream.”

As a mother of a child with medical complexity, Buchanan’s research is focused on improving the healthcare system for this population, and for the parents who spend the majority of their time caring for their children. Improving communications between physicians and improving the use of information provided by parents, are areas that Buchanan is eager to focus on.  “I have a background in business strategy having worked as an information systems analyst and I figured I could transfer these skills and my knowledge in this area in an effort to improve the health system.” Her son is the main reason behind Buchanan’s return to graduate studies and health care research, working for corporate companies

The VHA Home Healthcare Graduate Award aims to recognize and sponsor emerging scientists and researchers like Buchanan who are engaged in diversifying research and expertise in the home and community sector. In addition to funding, recipients are provided with mentorship and partnership opportunities to enhance their research and impact in the health system.

For Buchanan winning this award means a great a deal, and it validates in way the importance of her research and goals in improving our health system for children with medically complex needs. “As a parent who is caring for their child with medical complexity, it is difficult to juggle a job, academics, and my son’s care,” said Buchanan, “this additional financial support will allow me to continue with my research, and help me make an even greater impact.”