Spring Seminar Series – Health Services & Policy Research

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Embracing Complexity – Applications of Complex Systems
Science to Innovation & Change in Health Care Systems

Embracing Complexity in Healthcare: A 25-Year Assessment

  • April 6 Recording – [Adobe Connect Webinar]

Speaker: James Begun, Professor of Healthcare Management, Health Policy & Management, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

James W. Begun, PhD, is James A. Hamilton Professor of Healthcare Management in the Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota. He teaches management and leadership in the School of Public Health, where he received the Leonard M. Schuman Award for Excellence in Teaching. Author of 100+ scholarly publications, Dr. Begun’s recent work includes the books, Leading Public Health: A Competency Framework (with J. Malcolm, 2014), Understanding Teamwork in Health Care (with G. Mosser, 2013), and Managing Health Organizations for Quality and Performance (with L.F. Fallon and W. Riley, 2012).

Dr. Begun formerly directed the PhD Program in Health Services Organization and Research at Virginia Commonwealth University and the MHA Program at the University of Minnesota. He has been active in promoting competency-based education, serving several terms on and chairing the Board of Commissioners of the Accrediting Commission on Education in Health Services Administration. He was awarded the Gary L. Filerman Prize for Innovation in Healthcare Management Education in 2008 by the Association of University Programs in Health Administration. Dr. Begun holds a Ph.D. degree in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Since the early 1990s, healthcare researchers and practitioners have been exposed to complexity science, described by many to be a revolution in scientific thought. One might expect a field in which the objects of study are particularly complex (e.g., the healthcare organization, the healthcare system, the healthcare delivery process) to profoundly embrace the science. To what extent has healthcare embraced complexity science, to what effect?
I give a “rosy” assessment: While the direct application of complexity science has been quite limited, as a whole, healthcare research (and practice) has substantially progressed in its appreciation for and understanding of complexity. I present examples of this progress and areas for further development.


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