Joel S. Weissman, PhD, Awarded $4.4M National Institutes of Health Grant

Joel S. Weissman, PhD, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for his study “Understanding and Improving Surgical Decision-Making for Persons Living with Dementia, their Family Caregivers, and their Providers: A Mixed Methods Study.

Surgical decision-making is challenging for persons living with dementia (PLWD) due to limited longitudinal data on outcomes, a patient’s limited ability to fully participate in the discussion, and an absence of evidence-based guidelines. The aim of this study is to understand the epidemiology of surgery for PLWD, as well as patient, caregiver, and provider practices and challenges of surgical decision-making in clinical settings. We focus on surgery because it is common among elderly PLWDs, represents a critical inflection point in quality of life, and therefore is a fraught process for all involved.

Results of our study will support key advancements in ADRD research by focusing on under-studied areas of surgical decision-making by key stakeholders. Currently, there is a need to understand the landscape of surgical decision-making among PLWDs and providers prior to assessing surgical outcomes among these patients. Results will provide critical data to inform training on how best to care for PLWDs facing surgery and support policy decisions designed to improved patient-centered care. Surgeons and other providers along with patients and their caregivers will be able to use these data to improve surgical decision-making to align care with patient values.

Joel Weissman, PhD
Joel Weissman, PhD

Joel S. Weissman, PhD
Deputy Director and Chief Scientific Officer, Center for Surgery and Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Professor of Surgery (Health Policy), Harvard Medical School

Joel S. Weissman, PhD, is deputy director and chief scientific officer of the Center for Surgery and Public Health (CSPH) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of surgery in health policy at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Weissman received his doctorate in health policy from the Pew Fellows Program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management – Brandeis University. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles and has led numerous externally funded studies.

In addition to surgical health services, his research interests lie in the areas of patient-centered quality and safety, payment reform, disparities/vulnerable populations, uncompensated care, drug policy, comparative effectiveness research policy, and academic-industry relationships. He was the lead evaluator for the roll-out of Consumer’s Union Best Buy Drugs program, and his early work on access to care by the uninsured led to a co-authored book, “Falling Through the Safety Net: Insurance Status and Access to Care,” with a forward by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

During 2008-10, Dr. Weissman served as senior health policy advisor to the secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (HHS), followed by two months as visiting faculty at the Mexico National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca. During his time with Massachusetts HHS, he led the planning effort for a multi-million dollar statewide all-payer medical home pilot and examined the budgetary impact of universal health coverage in Massachusetts (NEJM perspective). In addition, he provided strategic thinking on public reporting of re-hospitalizations, non-payment for serious reportable events, improving care transitions, comparative effectiveness research and reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

Dr. Weissman is co-director of a course on health services research methods at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (portions of which have been taught in Singapore, Puerto Rico and Mexico), and serves as a tutor/seminar leader in the health policy course for HMS students.

Welcoming New Faculty – Matthew Brian Couger, PhD

Please join us in welcoming Matthew Brian Couger, PhD, as a new faculty member in the Department of Surgery.

Matthew Brian Couger, PhD
Lead Investigator, Division of Thoracic Surgery

Dr. Couger is a graduate of Oklahoma State University, where he received his PhD in microbiology and molecular genetics. Before coming to the Brigham, he worked as a bioinformatics specialist at the Oklahoma State University High Performance Computing Center.

Highlights of his research include: Co-creating the extremely popular RNA analysis functional annotation software Trinotate, producing the first murine genome using 10x genomics sequencing, writing numerous papers on microbial ecology, designing a 40k marker array for the eagle genotyping and producing the first genomic assembly for the enigmatic anaerobic fungi.

Dr. Couger’s research interests include: Bioinformatics, computational biology, high performance computing, big data, cellular biology, RNA-seq, machine learning, software design, whole genome assembly, variant discovery and population genetics.

Dr. Couger’s research in bioinformatics and genomics includes 46 publications in journals such as the ISME Journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Cell Reports, Nature Methods and G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics.

At the Brigham, Dr. Couger will be working on computational oncology and other big data projects for the Division of Thoracic Surgery as well as helping establish this resource for the DOS.

Incoming General Surgery Interns for AY 20-21

Categorical General Surgery

  • Isaac Alty – Harvard Medical School
  • Jake Awtry – Johns Hopkins
  • Ilaria Caturegli – University of Maryland
  • Eliza Hersh – Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Annabelle Jones – Stony Brook University
  • Yun Jee Kang – Harvard Medical School
  • Sangki Oak – University of Pittsburgh
  • Alexander Ordoobadi – Harvard Medical School
  • Stefanie Soelling – Emory University

Cardiothoracic Integrated I – 6

  • John Finnigan – Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai – CT I-6 Thoracic track
  • Thais Faggion Vinholo – Yale School of Medicine – CT I-6 Cardiac Track


  • Yefri Baez – Harvard Medical School
  • Vincent D’Andrea – Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell
  • Kendrick Yim – University of California, San Diego

Harvard Plastic Surgery

  • Charles (Chuck) Hwang – University of Michigan
  • Ian McCulloch – West Virginia Medical SchoolRicardo Ortiz – Harvard Medical School

Preliminary Interns

  • Christian Cerecedo Lopez – Universidad Anáhuac Escuela de Medicina, Mexico
  • Chin Fung (Kelvin) Kan – University of Queensland School of Medicine, Australia – Anesthesia @ U. Utah
  • Martin Kauke – Universität zu Köln Medizinische Fakultät, Germany
  • Joseph Phalen – Boston University – Anesthesia @ NYU
  • Ishan Sinha – The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University – Interventional Radiology @ Mt. Sinai
  • Sameer Singhal – George Washington University – Interventional Radiology @ BWH
  • Darshan Vora – George Washington University – Interventional Radiology @ BWH