Deborah Cohen, PhD

Dr. Cohen conducts multi-disciplinary, team-based research in primary care. Her research focuses on examining primary care systems and health care quality, and identifying practice systems and approaches that support the translation of basic research findings into practice improvements. Through this work, Dr. Cohen is developing a mixed method approach to evaluate quality improvements in clinical settings. This is a pragmatic approach for assessing the process of implementing quality improvement interventions as well as evaluating clinically meaningful outcomes.

The goal of this mixed method evaluation approach is to use evaluation to identify successful quality improvements and to gather the process data — how interventions were “really” implemented — that is necessary for disseminating and translating successful interventions to other settings. Important features of this research include fostering collaboration among frontline clinic members implementing interventions and researchers, and collecting and sharing research data in real time in order to foster learning through evaluation.

Dr. Cohen has used this approach to explore how electronic health records are used among community primary care practices and how preventive care and health behavior counseling can be integrated into primary care practice.

Dr. Cohen is a qualitative researcher by training and has specific expertise in a qualitative approach called conversation analysis. She enjoys working on multidisciplinary research teams. In addition, Dr. Cohen created a web-based resource for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that is designed for people with an interest in qualitative research (, and Dr. Cohen is an Associate Editor for the Annals of Family Medicine.