We are proud to call our faculty research associates part of the RRI family. And as in any family, sharing information helps to strengthen bonds. In academia, it also provides one another with background information that may be useful in identifying collaborators and establishing relationships for future publications and research.
Therefore, each quarter, we will be profiling a different faculty research associate.
She is an avid Eagles football fan, can’t get enough reality television, and loves spending time with her family and three rescue dogs. But her real passion is working to ensure that underserved and vulnerable populations get the care they need—when they need it—and in the right care setting. Dr. Lindsay Allen is an Assistant Professor, heath economist, and health services researcher at the School of Public Health. Currently, she is the co-Principal Investigator, along with Dr. Tom Bias, for the evaluation of West Virginia’s Substance Use Disorder 1115 Medicaid Waiver, designed to provide Medicaid enrollees better access to care for opioid and other substance related health issues.
Her interest in health care began in high school when seniors were required to complete a one-month internship with a local company; Allen chose to intern in the Sales Analytics department of a local pharmaceutical company. “Since that time, nearly all my work experiences have been in health care, though in very different parts of the system,” Allen said. “I tell my students that there are many facets of the health care system and that internships, fellowships, and volunteer work can go a long way in helping them figure out what they love to do,” Allen continued.
Her undergraduate and master’s degrees were earned at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago, respectively; she achieved her Ph.D. at Emory University, where she met her now-husband. They graduated at the same time, and although it’s a rare occurrence, they had hoped to find positions at the same university and were fortunate enough to do so. Allen’s husband, Dr. Alex Lundberg, is an Assistant Professor of Economics in B&E.
“The field of health economics is full of terrific researchers who produce great work and are also exceptionally generous with their time and mentorship,” Allen said. Allen credits her two mentors from Emory University, Jason Hockenberry and Janet Cummings, with helping to shape her thorough and logical approach to research. She also names Kosali Simon from Indiana University, Guy David from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Brendan Saloner from Johns Hopkins as researchers she admires.
Allen’s position gives her great satisfaction because she can see the many ways her research affects patients in the real world. “Right now, I’m especially interested in acute care, and the role of non-traditional delivery models in meeting the demand for it,” she said. Most of her work pertains to the structure of the health care system and its effects on patient interaction with it.
What does not give her satisfaction is the absence of universal health care in the United States; the only highly developed country in the world that doesn’t have it. Allen notes, “The majority of Americans have made it clear they want the government to provide health care for all. Medicare and Medicaid were originally created in the 1960s because it was thought that universal health care would not pass. Those bills provided public insurance for two specific groups (the elderly and the poor), which heavily influenced the piecemeal approach we have taken to expanding health insurance since then.” It is her goal to provide policymakers with the information they need to distribute health care resources in a manner that is not only efficient, but also helps people.
Allen is also interested in the spatial aspect of health care. “A lot of my research focuses on the supply of health care resources at the small area level. Instead of looking at state-level outcomes, I prefer to look at what’s going on at the zip code or census tract level,” Allen said. “When you make statements about health care in large geographies (such as the state or region of the country), you’re potentially missing out on a lot of important factors that are happening more locally. Consider Morgantown versus some of the more rural areas of West Virginia.” Allen continued. She points out how different the health needs and policy goals are in these areas, requiring different types of intervention. She explains that it is important for policy makers to understand these nuances when they make their decisions based on her (and others’) research.
“I love the opportunities I currently have to collaborate with colleagues from WVU’s Economics Department, School of Pharmacy, and Department of Emergency Medicine,” Allen said. She points out that these interdisciplinary relationships strengthen the work being done in the School of Public Health. She is especially interested in collaborating with the Regional Research Institute on some advanced spatial techniques that will allow them to do a “deep dive into local health problems.” But she also wants others to know that if they are interested in collaborating, they can drop her a line at any time.