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UML Alum Named as Merck Fellow


LOWELL ߝ Rocco J. Perla, Ed. D., recently received the prestigious George W. Merck Fellowship.  Only three fellows from a nationwide pool of applicants are selected each year for the program, which is offered at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Cambridge.

Perla, a biologist and researcher at HealthAlliance Hospital, earned his doctoral degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2006.  While a graduate student at UMass Lowell, Perla was the first student to be named graduate research scholar two consecutive years (2004 and 2005) and the outstanding doctoral student of the year in 2003. Perla and his mentor at UMass Lowell, Prof. James Carifio, established an interdisciplinary platform for science-based educational research that lead to a national research award in 2004 and more than 25 published and presented papers.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement, with the support of the family of George W. Merck, offers a one-year, on-site, full-time fellowship program to address the need for health-care leaders. In addition, Merck fellows complete training in clinical effectiveness, measurement, decision science and ethics at the Harvard University School of Public Health.

"Dr. Perla was selected based on his strong leadership skills, dedication, and passion to seek new knowledge that would lead to significant improvements in our health care delivery system," said Joelle Baehrend, fellowship director.

The program has two goals: Develop health care leaders with the drive, skills, and experience to spread improvement in the United States and globally, and build organizational capability to drive quality improvement to dramatically higher levels of performance. The program is intended to prepare Fellows for enhanced leadership roles upon return to their sponsoring institutions. 

"Dr. Perla was already an established scientist when he arrived at UMass Lowell, but through the education doctoral program, he gained insight into fields such as psychometrics, cognitive psychology, learning theory, and complex human decision-making which served to compliment his background as a bio-medical scientist.  It is exactly this type of interdisciplinary background and training that makes him ideally suited for the Merck Fellowship at IHI where he will tackle complex issues facing the current health-care system," said Prof. James Carifio. "In today’s complex world, solutions to problems often come outside one’s primary discipline and this is why interdisciplinary study and competence is so critical to transforming and optimizing healthcare both in the United States and abroad."

"My education and training at UMass Lowell has provided me with a diverse set of skills and perspectives that I believe can be applied effectively to many of the important problems facing healthcare today," said Perla, who begins his fellowship this summer. "The IHI is clearly committed to applying sound and innovative principles to health care from a multidisciplinary framework, and this is what initially attracted me to the fellowship and the work of the IHI in general."

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