Katherine Chen, MD
Residency at UCLA School of Medicine
MD – Internal Medicine, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA
Residency – Internal Medicine, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA
Biography: Dr. Katherine Chen, MD, is an internal medicine physician aspiring to a career as a clinician-investigator focused on population health. Her research explores equity issues at the intersection of urban planning and population health, with an emphasis on strategies for reducing health disparities and improving access to opportunities for well-being through policies that shape affordable housing, transportation, and neighborhood environments.
As an NCSP scholar, Dr. Chen’s interdisciplinary work led her to partnerships across departments and institutions. She developed her primary NCSP project, entitled, “Neighborhood Change & Health Gains? Effects of Gentrification on Hypertension and Diabetes Control,” in partnership with Dr. Teryl Nuckols (Cedars-Sinai), Dr. Claudia Nau (Kaiser Permanente), Andrea Jones (Healthy African American Families II), Dr. Kristen Choi (UCLA School of Nursing), Dr. Fred Zimmerman (UCLA Fielding School of Public Health), Dr. Ninez Ponce (UCLA Center for Health Policy Research), and Dr. Paul Ong (UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge). This study built upon the growing literature on neighborhood health effects to explore whether gentrification influences health outcomes for patients with hypertension and diabetes living in low-income neighborhoods. This study used electronic health record data from Kaiser Permanente and neighborhood data from the American Community Survey to understand how changing neighborhood conditions might contribute to spatial health disparities. This was funded in part by a grant from the UCLA Ziman Center via the UCLA Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Program in Real Estate, Finance and Urban Economics.
Dr. Chen also led a research study that aims to understand the impact of California’s affordable housing crisis on population health. For this study, she analyzed data from the California Health Interview Study to understand how residential moves due to unaffordable housing may influence health outcomes. After publishing a pilot study showing that people who have moved because of housing costs are at increased risk for missing necessary medical care, she went on to develop an expanded follow-up study to evaluate impact of these moves on a larger set of health outcomes and behaviors. This ongoing study will also assess whether the relationship between cost-related moves and health differs for people from different demographic groups and for people who move to different neighborhood contexts. She was supported in this work by the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center/UCLA National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health Pilot Award and by mentorship from Drs. Nuckols and Zimmerman as well as from Dr. Joann Elmore and Dr. Lauren Wisk, both in the UCLA Department of Medicine.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Chen led a third grant-funded project, “Transportation Access to Health Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” with support from the University of California COIVD-19 Response and Recovery Research Program. In partnership with Dr. Zimmerman along with Dr. Keith Norris (UCLA), Dr. Kimberly Gregory (Cedars-Sinai), Madeline Brozen (UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies), and graduate students from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Dr. Chen led the development of a narrative review that explored the connections between transportation and access to health care. In addition to an academic manuscript and white paper, this project resulted in a policy brief and invited editorial.
Dr. Chen’s final line of research projects focused on opportunities for health systems to address the social determinants of health. In collaboration with fellows from the Yale University NCSP site, this project used public records, including Internal Revenue Service filings, to understand how nonprofit hospitals engage with housing as a health-related social need in their local communities. This work has resulted in two published papers and the development of an ongoing cross-institutional research collaboration.
In April 2021, Dr. Chen was awarded the UCLA Chancellor’s Award for Postdoctoral Research in recognition of her achievements as an NCSP scholar. In addition to publishing in peer-reviewed journals, Dr. Chen was invited to present her work to national, state, and local audiences in health care, public health, urban planning, and policy making, and her work has been featured in radio and print interviews.
Energized by her NCSP experiences, Dr. Chen elected to continue her research training in the pursuit of a PhD in Health Policy & Management through the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. She finished her PhD with funding from the UCLA NRSA Primary Care Research Fellowship and the Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) Program. With a dissertation committee formed from the mentors she developed as an NCSP fellow, Dr. Chen prepared her thesis focused on characterizing the health consequences of residential displacement pressures related to economic and neighborhood contexts. Dr. Chen continues to practice patient care and supervise resident physicians at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Los Angeles.
Dr. Chen is now an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCLA.