Alumni News

Using Science to Better our Communities

Jarrod Dalton proves that where you start in your career is not necessarily where you will end up. Dr. Dalton worked as a Summer Fellow in 2003 at CIGLR, then “CILER,” working to understand how best to measure sea surface temperatures. In his own words, he worked on “…applying my statistical skills to build a spatial model and associated visualizations for sea surface temperature, and, in general, scratching my atmospheric/bathymetric sciences itch even though that wasn’t specifically the career path I ended up choosing.” Almost 20 years later, Dr. Dalton is applying that same analytical mind to a new field: health services research.

As the director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Populations Health Research and a leader of a regional collaboration with MetroHealth, Dr. Dalton uses statistical tools to monitor neighborhood-level and population-level risk factors for cardiovascular health, myocardial infarction, and chronic illnesses. In a paper published in 2017, Dr. Dalton and his team studied the relationship between neighborhood disadvantage and the risk of cardiovascular disease, proving that a popular tool, the Pooled Cohort Equations Risk Model (PCERM) of the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, often overlooked cardiovascular risk in patients from disadvantaged communities. In another paper, he found that by using a multi-institutional electronic medical records (EMR) it is possible to track specific homeless individuals and their risk for chronic illness, paving the way for intervention with these often-overlooked communities.

Through his relationship with MetroHealth, Dr. Dalton helped form an EHR database of more than 2.4 million unique patients. The Northeast Ohio Cohort for Atherosclerotic Risk Estimation (NEOCARE) registry, a vital tool for doctors across Cleveland, took several years to assemble and includes more than two decades of patient information spanning across all socioeconomic centers in Cuyahoga County. Despite many challenges in accurately using electronic health records in comprehensive databases, the NEOCARE registry is now a workable resource, especially in understanding racial, ethnic and neighborhood socioeconomic differences in assessing patient risk.

In another crucial study, Dr. Dalton, along with fellow researchers at the Cleveland Clinic used simulations to determine the patient risk of developing severe complications while waiting for a lung transplant. If a new model could be developed that takes into account these potential complications, sicker patients in greater need of a transplant could be prioritized. “In our simulations, we showed that deaths on the waiting list could be decreased through making sure that patients who are getting sicker are actually prioritized at an earlier point in time,” said Dr. Dalton.