At ZSFG, research plays an integral part not just in advancing knowledge about disease or the practice of medicine, but in the relationships between clinicians and patients formed either in trauma or primary care settings. With more than 800 active researchers on campus at any time, there are a lot of advances in research to follow. The Foundation recently honored one researcher, who is also a primary care physician and Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine, for applying his work on empowering patients with better health literacy and generating better health outcomes.

Dr. Dean Schillinger’s numerous contributions in research and programming related to health literacy, diabetes, and public health have had a transformative role in setting standards for relationship centered care. He has also channeled his dedication to primary care and patient well-being at ZSFG into impactful programs that foster greater community health outside of ZSFG and its clinics.

He authored an Institute of Medicine report on the Attributes of Health Literate Healthcare Organizations through which ZSFG has gained national recognition as a center of excellence in patient-centered communication.

Dr. Schillinger has applied his research directly into his clinical relationships. As a patient, Maria Hernandez has been seeing Dr. Schillinger for more than a decade to manage her diabetes, as well as many other chronic health concerns. Although her husband recently passed away, he too was a patient with Dr. Schillinger and they often visited together for treatment. Today, Maria is doing remarkably well and credits Dr. Schillinger for teaching her how to trust in understanding both her disease, and her own responsibilities for managing it. Dr. Schillinger in turn credits Maria for doing the work necessary to live a healthy life, in spite of co-diagnoses, such as heart disease. By going the extra step of empowering and educating Maria and her husband, they thrived under his care.

“We’ve done really remarkable research describing the multitude of ways in which communication, when done well, can serve as a more powerful tonic than any pill,” said Dr. Schillinger.

Visit the Foundation’s YouTube channel to learn more about Dr. Schillinger and Maria Hernandez, and their partnership in health: