February 2, 2022

Winkfield to direct engagement for national research network

Vanderbilt is set to establish an Engagement Coordinating Center for PCORnet, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network.


by Paul Govern

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has received a three-year, $2 million contract from PCORI, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, to establish an Engagement Coordinating Center for PCORnet, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network.

Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD

The new center will be directed by Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD, professor of Radiation Oncology, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance.

PCORI is an independent nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010 to fund comparative effectiveness research to help consumers, clinicians, health care payers and policymakers make better-informed health care decisions at both the individual and population levels. PCORnet was established by PCORI in 2013 to carry out this research. PCORnet is a partnership among large clinical research networks, currently having data on everyday health care encounters of more than 68 million people across the U.S.

“PCORnet is above all a people-centered research network, and the patient populations it engages reflect the human diversity that defines our country and its health care system,” Winkfield said. “With regard to broad stakeholder engagement in comparative effectiveness research, we look forward to helping PCORnet build on its history of innovation and success.”

She adds, “The tremendous health care data research capabilities found here at VUMC, along with our growing portfolio of comparative effectiveness research and pragmatic clinical trials, is likely to have figured in PCORI’s decision to place national leadership for stakeholder engagement efforts with our team.”

Winkfield is a national expert in community engagement, with research focused on the design and implementation of programming to reduce sociocultural and economic barriers that contribute to health outcome disparities. Before joining VUMC in 2020, she was a faculty member at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, serving as associate director for Community Outreach and Engagement and as director of the Office of Cancer Health Equity. Prior to that, Winkfield was a radiation oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, specializing in radiation therapy for hematologic malignancies and breast cancer.

Among the clinical research networks that have partnered to form PCORnet is the Stakeholder, Technology and Research Clinical Research Network, or StarCRN, encompassing VUMC and seven other health systems, with combined data on over 15 million patients. StarCRN is led by network principal investigator Russell Rothman, MD, MPP, director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health and Senior Vice President for Population and Public Health at VUMC.