CTSI Spotlight: Janet Coffman

Janet Coffman, MA, MPP, PhD

Janet Coffman, MA, MPP, PhD, is a faculty member at UCSF and the director of CTSI's Comparative Effectiveness Large Dataset Analysis Core (CELDAC) initiative in partnership with the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (IHPS) and Academic Research Systems (ARS). Note: CTSI offers consultations on working with large data sets through CELDAC.

How long have you worked at UCSF?

I began working at UCSF in 1995 as a research associate at the Center for the Health Professions. I left in 2001 to pursue my PhD in Health Services Research and Policy Analysis at UC-Berkeley. I returned to UCSF in 2005 as a research associate at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and became a faculty member in 2008. In 2013, I rejoined the Center for the Health Professions as a Faculty Affiliate because a large part of my research agenda focuses on the health care workforce.

What do you do at UCSF and how is it connected to the UCSF mission?

I am a faculty member at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. I am primarily engaged in research but also devote a significant amount of time to teaching and service. One of my most important service activities is CELDAC, the Comparative Effectiveness Large Dataset Analysis Core. This is an initiative to enhance capacity for UCSF researchers to use large, public datasets to conduct quantitative research on health and health care delivery. I provide resources and consultation to researchers. In addition to this informal mentoring, I am the co-director for the health policy intersession for third year medical students. I conduct research on the health care workforce, health insurance policy, and access to care for vulnerable populations.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your job?

The most rewarding parts of my job are being able to translate research findings for policymakers and helping others at UCSF to do policy relevant research.

What do you like most about your work related to CELDAC?

Being able to help faculty and trainees address research questions of interest to them. I learn so much from talking with people about their research questions and attempting to identify datasets they could use to study them. I especially enjoy interacting with clinicians because their research focuses on understanding and improving patient care, whereas my most of my research focuses on health professionals and the health care system overall. My greatest joy is hearing from our users about the abstracts and journal articles they’ve used CELDAC datasets to produce.

What are some things that people may not know about the work you do?

CELDAC has three major components

If you chose another career path outside UCSF what would it be?

Hmm . . . I took a long and somewhat winding road to get to where I am at UCSF today. I was a graduate student in history, a Congressional staffer, and an intern at a public health department. I took the LSAT and almost applied to law school. I knew I wanted to work in health policy but needed some time to figure out the best career path for me. Being a professor of health policy at UCSF enables me to take an academic approach to addressing important public policy questions in health care. At this time in my life, there isn’t anything else I’d rather do.  

What's something that your colleagues or members of the UCSF community might be surprised to know about you?

Thanks to genealogy buffs on both sides of my family, I can trace my roots in the United States back to the late 18th century. Both sides of my dad’s family came from Germany and settled in rural Virginia. My mom’s maternal ancestors came from Switzerland, settled in Maryland but later moved westward to Illinois, Kansas, and Colorado. My mom’s paternal ancestors emigrated from Northern Ireland in the mid-19th century.

What are your favorite things to do with your free time? 

Cooking, reading, hiking, and traveling. My husband is from Peru and we enjoy cooking Peruvian dishes together and trying our hands at other cuisines. When we travel, we like to visit museums, archaeological sites, and natural wonders.

CTSI Spotlight is part of an ongoing series that offers an opportunity for faculty and staff to learn more about the wide range of people who make CTSI's work possible. See all featured faculty and staff.