Thérèse Stukel , SSC Award for Impact of Applied and Collaborative Work 2021

Thérèse Stukel
SSC Award for Impact of Applied and Collaborative Work

The 2021 recipient of the Statistical Society of Canada Award for Impact of Applied and Collaborative Work is Thérèse Stukel, Senior Scientist at ICES in Toronto and Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto. The award recognizes outstanding contributions by a member of the SSC in collaborative research and applied work, the importance of which derives primarily from its relatively recent impact on a subject area outside of the statistical sciences, on an area of application, or on an organization.


Thérèse Stukel received a BSc (Honours) in Mathematics (magna cum laudae) from the University of Ottawa in 1973 and completed the Diplôme d'Études Approfondies (DEA) en Statistiques at the Université de Paris XI in France in 1975. She received a PhD from the Department of Statistics at the University of Toronto in 1983. During a sabbatical at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1999- 2000, she took courses in the Health Policy, Planning and Financing Master’s Program at the London School of Economics (LSE).


Thérèse is best known for her ground-breaking research on statistical methods for the analysis of observational studies, particularly the use of instrumental variables (IV) to remove unmeasured confounding and survival bias in health care studies; Stukel et al., Journal of the American Medical Association, 2007) was nominated for 2007 Lancet Paper of the Year. She co-authored an influential publication on the US healthcare system using IV methods demonstrating that higher healthcare spending did not lead to better outcomes. It received extraordinary media attention and was selected for presentation to the US Congress as one of the top 10 research articles having a significant impact on science. Using the same methods, she first-authored a study showing that in Canada, higher-spending hospitals were associated with better outcomes for acute care patients, demonstrating the advantages of a single payer system with lower overall spending and selective access to medical technology (Stukel et al., Journal of the American Medical Association, 2012).


Her statistical innovations are widely used by scientists at Canadian data-intensive research centres such as the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and Population Data BC, as well as internationally. Her current research focuses on the effects of health system resources and organization on delivery of care and outcomes in Canada and the US, including international comparative studies.


Her applied research is routinely conducted in collaboration with senior decision makers, to ensure its policy relevance and facilitate its uptake. She developed the boundaries for Ontario’s Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) for the Ontario Ministry of Health based on travel patterns for hospitalizations. She also created Ontario Multispecialty Physician Networks, virtual physician networks that mimic US Accountable Care Organizations, and evaluated their efficiency (quality vs. costs) in managing patients with chronic diseases. These networks are used by the Ontario Ministry of Health as the basis for its Ontario Health Teams, groups of health care providers including hospitals, doctors and home and community care providers that work as coordinated teams to share responsibility for defined populations. She is sought out by national and international research teams that aim to improve the Canadian healthcare system and extend that knowledge to healthcare systems in other countries because of her unique insights as both a statistician and healthcare researcher. 


In addition to being a highly accomplished researcher, Thérèse is an outstanding leader and collaborator. She was the inaugural statistical director of the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care (1995-2002) that documented huge variations in medical practice across US regions. The Atlas was prominent among studies cited by President Obama’s health care system reform team. As Vice-President of Research at ICES (2002–2007), Dr. Stukel was instrumental in guiding the strategic research direction of that organization, as well as contributing a high level of methodological rigor in observational studies about population health, healthcare use, and outcomes.

Thérèse has received numerous awards in recognition of her cutting-edge research, leadership, and commitment to the statistics profession. She was named a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2007. In recognition of her exemplary mentorship of graduate students, she received the 2019 Eugenie Stuart Award for Educational Leadership from the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. In 2020, she was named a Senior Fellow of Massey College, University of Toronto. 


The citation for the award reads: 

 “To Thérèse Stukel for her outstanding contributions to the development and application of statistical methods for observational studies and her innovation and leadership in generating evidence to guide decision-making and inform changes in healthcare delivery and policy” 


Tolulope Sajobi and Lisa Lix were responsible for preparing this material.