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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Faculty Profile: Karl Bilimoria, MD, Director, Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center and Assistant Professor, Surgical Oncology

Karl Bilimoria, MD

Dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of care provided to surgical and oncology patients, Karl Bilimoria, MD, MS’08, GME’10, assistant professor of surgery-surgical oncology, received the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Young Investigator Award and an American Cancer Society (ACS) grant in June.

He will use the two-year NCCN grant to study the quality of care delivered to melanoma and breast cancer patients, and the ACS grant will be used to compare hospitals on the quality of cancer surgery provided in a collaboration of 51 NCI-designated cancer centers started by Bilimoria.

As director of the Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center, Bilimoria focuses on examining the quality of care delivered across the United States to develop strategies to improve healthcare quality. He is the medical director for surgical quality and collaborates with Northwestern Memorial Hospital on numerous practical quality improvement initiatives. He is also a faculty scholar at the American College of Surgeons, where much of his research has an immediate national impact.

He earned his medical degree in 2003 from Indiana University and received his master’s degree in clinical investigation in 2008 from Northwestern University. Bilimoria completed his residency in general surgery at Northwestern McGaw and his fellowship at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in surgical oncology.


What are your research interests?
My research focuses on quality improvement strategies and policy evaluations related to quality initiatives.

Our quality improvement research works toward developing better ways to provide hospitals with comparative data to spur internal hospital quality improvement efforts. We also examine how to provide patients better comparative data through public reporting, which can assist them in selecting the best hospital for their surgical care. Our policy evaluations examine the effect of various structural, accreditation, and legislative efforts, such as public reporting and value-based purchasing, on quality of care in surgery and oncology.

What is the ultimate goal of your work?
I would like to facilitate providing hospitals with robust, accurate, and actionable data to allow targeted quality improvement efforts. For example, if we provide information to a hospital whereby they identify that they are an outlier for wound infections after colorectal surgery compared to other hospitals in the country, then that hospital can focus their efforts to improve in that specific area. Moreover, we would like to show that providing hospitals with these data does actually improve quality of care in a meaningful and sustainable way.

With respect to our policy evaluations, we hope to inform these debates with evidence to spur and encourage initiatives which actually do result in better healthcare quality.

What types of collaborations are you engaged in across campus?
We have a diverse group of collaborators, including researchers in the Center for Healthcare Studies, the Department of Medical Social Sciences, the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, the VA Center for Complex and Chronic Care, and at the American College of Surgeons. We also collaborate with the quality and process improvement teams at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. We have some exciting new collaborations with payers that will undoubtedly keep us busy.

How is your research funded?
Our research is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the NIH, the American Cancer Society, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American College of Surgeons, the DeBoer Family Sarcoma Foundation, and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Who makes up your research team and what role does each individual play in your research?
We have a great team that is growing quickly. Our group is comprised of surgeons, health services researchers, statisticians, analysts, a programmer, a program manager, a program assistant, and a grants administrator. Our collaboratorions offer a rich and diverse group of experts to augment the expertise within our group.

Where have you recently published papers?
We have recently published in Medical Care, Health Services Research, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Cancer, Annals of Surgery, Annals of Surgical Oncology, Archives of Surgery, and the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Which honors are you most proud of and why?
We were excited to receive this most recent grant from AHRQ as it is a major area of interest for our team and demonstrates a powerful collaboration between the Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center (SOQIC), the Center for Healthcare Studies, and the American College of Surgeons.

The grant focuses on trying to improve public reporting so it is more patient-centered and useful for patients when they are trying to select the best hospital for surgery.