Health Policy Data Science Lab at HCP

January 16, 2019

The Health Policy Data Science Lab was founded in 2015 by associate professors of health care policy Laura Hatfield, PhD and Sherri Rose, PhD as a collaborative research space to tackle policy issues using rigorous statistical methods. The Lab leverages diverse data sources to equip policymakers with actionable evidence and seeks to influence policy solutions with social impact. The Lab’s inclusivity and opportunities for trainees attract scholars interested in studying underserved populations.

Rose and Hatfield approach statistics differently: Hatfield uses parametric Bayesian models and Rose deploys machine learning. But as they began mentoring trainees, they realized that multiple perspectives would be key to robust policy recommendations.

Originally an engineering major, Rose received a bachelor’s degree in statistics from The George Washington University after an introductory statistics course inspired her. She earned her PhD in Biostatistics from the University of California, Berkeley before completing an NSF Mathematical Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University.

Hatfield attended Iowa State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in Genetics. After a stint in rare disease research at Johns Hopkins, she went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. In her first biostatistics course, Hatfield discovered the path to the research tools she had always wanted and went on to earn a PhD in Biostatistics.

Research from the Lab has important policy implications. Rose led a risk adjustment project that studied variations in spending levels within markets and provided suggestions for setting accountable care organization spending goals. Several of these recommendations were included in the final rules published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Currently, the Lab is pursuing research in health equity and systematic biases in health care as well as new methods for evaluating policy ideas “in the wild” with observational data. For example, Harvard health policy PhD candidate and Lab member Alex McDowell leads ongoing research on mental health outcomes among gender minority individuals living in states with and without non-discrimination policies. Being part of the Lab has helped McDowell develop her research: “The Lab is a supportive and inclusive space where I've been exposed to a range of novel methods in data science and received rigorous and highly constructive feedback on my research.” McDowell continues, “It's also provided the opportunity to learn from other students, post-docs, faculty, and data scientists about career paths, funding, networking, and conferences.”

To learn more about the Health Policy Data Science Lab, visit