At the E&R section breakfast at the Annual Meeting on Monday, October 13, Tom Edwalds handed over the (notional) gavel and the keys to the E&R safety deposit box to me, as the new section chairperson. I am honored to be able to lead the section in the coming year.
Tom and I gave a combined presentation on achievements over the past year, and plans for the coming year. For those section members who do not know me (most of you) I am a consulting actuary with my own actuarial consulting firm in Hartford, Conn. specializing in managed care. Our actuarial staff consists of a total of three FSAs, two ASAs and two students. Our managed care focus means that we interact with many non–actuarial healthcare professionals (doctors, health economists, epidemiologists and statisticians, for example). The broad nature of our practice and the demands of our clients foster an interest in research and publication. I have previously published in various health services publications and am pleased that an article of which I am the principal author appears in the current issue of the NAAJ.
I became interested in research and publication because it was useful in the healthcare business in which I was engaged at the time. Many providers of health services perform studies and publish the results because the purchasers demand them. (These studies are often referred to as "drug A vs. drug B" studies, showing that your drug produces better results than the leading brand.) I applied for and was awarded a research grant by the SOA Health Section (subsequently increased with CKER funds). The result is a series of papers on managed care evaluation that may be found on the Health Section Web site. The dedication and effort of the SOA research staff, who managed the process, and the Project Oversight Group who peer–reviewed the papers, was enormous. Since the publication of the papers, I have been fortunate to be able to deliver the results at many different (actuarial and non–actuarial) conferences, and am always pleased when actuaries and others tell me that they have read the papers and applied some of the findings in their own practices.
What conclusions do I draw from this experience?
- Research can and should be done by practitioners as well as academics. It is difficult to encourage practitioner involvement, however. I hope that, in the coming year, the E&R Section can begin a dialogue about its role in fostering practitioner involvement.
- The SOA doesn't do a good job of marketing its research to the wider community. There are more non–actuarial users of my research than there are actuarial users, and I have undertaken to promote the research. But the SOA could do more–including, for example, having the NAAJ participate in MedLine, the clearing house for health research and publications.
- As a start in this direction, perhaps we can look for ways to encourage more practitioner involvement in the ARC (this year's ARC is being held at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh–an easily accessible and affordable destination for many actuaries). There is interest among the practitioner community in research–at the two last spring meetings we have held introductory sessions on research that have attracted around 100 actuaries each time–but as a section we have not found a way to connect our professional and practitioner researchers to productive ends.
I would welcome any thoughts or input from section members. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.