Stephen Patrick completed the Clinical Scholars Program in 2012 while undertaking a fellowship in neonatal-perinatal medicine at the University of Michigan. Patrick is now an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy at Vanderbilt University. He divides his time between an active clinical practice in neonatology and health services research focused on issues impacting critically-ill infants.
“Training as a scholar taught me how to think beyond the primary question I was studying, to see how my research could eventually shape policy, and which approaches to use to both generate robust data and translate it effectively for policymakers.”
Recognized as a national expert in this and other issues related to the safety and care of critically ill newborns, Patrick has taken on a number of high-profile government positions since completing the program, including Senior Science Policy Advisor within the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Expert Consultant to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Advisor to the Tennessee Department of Health’s Division of Family Health and Wellness.
“The program allowed me to think more broadly about what I saw playing out in the clinic environment,” he says. “It’s the reason I’ve been able to do the work I do.”
THEORY IN PRACTICE
Opioid overuse and the health of mothers and infants
One of the issues Patrick took on while still at U-M was the impact of opioid overuse on maternal and infant health. He was lead author of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimating that the number of newborns suffering withdrawal symptoms due to their mothers’ use of opioids during pregnancy more than tripled between 2000 and 2009, resulting in one baby born every hour in the U.S. with this problem.
Patrick continued the work at Vanderbilt, where he published a study in the Journal of Perinatology of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) as a result of opioid exposure in utero. This research highlighted significant differences in how children’s hospitals treat the condition. “The study demonstrated for hospitals and policymakers the need to provide standardized, evidence-based treatment to all of these infants,” Patrick says.