Meet new faculty: Nabil Natafgi

Hometown: Beirut
Education: B.S. in medical laboratory technology and MPH in health management and policy, American University of Beirut; Ph.D. in health services and policy, University of Iowa.
Position: Assistant professor, Arnold School of Public Health

As told to Craig Brandhorst:

I grew up in Beirut, and I did my undergrad at the American University of Beirut. I studied medical laboratory sciences with the aim that I would become a medical doctor. But one of the required courses was Introduction to Public Health.

I originally wanted to go into medicine to help others — that was the appealing side of it. And when I learned more about public health, that it’s really about generalizing across populations instead of treating one individual patient at a time, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

After I finished my master’s in public health, I had an opportunity to work as a research assistant in the same school. That got me into academia. I love doing research, the autonomy and independence. You can do what you want but still have high expectations for rigorous research.

I did my Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. My focus was on rural health services. There were two main areas that I focused on. The first was quality and patient safety in critical access hospitals. Usually these are very small hospitals in rural areas, remote areas. They have less than 25 beds. Most are operated by family physicians or nurse practitioners, etc. They are required to have emergency departments.

So I looked at the quality of care in those kinds of hospitals. We also did an evaluation of telemedicine: How effective can telemedicine be in terms of providing care in those remote areas? And how can we reduce transfer rates to tertiary hospitals, particularly from the emergency department?

For my postdoc at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, I wanted more inter­actions with people, with patients. I learned more about community-based participatory research and patient centered outcome research. Basically, it’s a way of involving patients, or people before they become patients, in the research that you’re doing — even in designing the research, asking the right questions, how we frame the questions.

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