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Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on Announcement of AHRQ Director

The appointment of Robert “Bob” Otto Valdez, Ph.D., M.H.S.A., as the new Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is welcome news. As we continue to deal with COVID-19 and prepare for future health threats it is critical we advance research to ensure we provide the right care, in the right setting, at the right time to maximize our return on medical progress. 

Dr. Valdez’s wealth of experience will be a tremendous asset to the Agency and to our country as he works to help address the ongoing effects of the pandemic and help our health care system navigate a sustainable path forward. The challenges are great, but the evidence-based research on best practices is the bedrock we need to strengthen, repair, and rebuild. 

Health services research continues to play an essential role in improving quality of care and wise investment of our health care dollars. (According to a recent survey commissioned by Research!America, COVID-19 and cost of health care are the two most important health issues to most Americans.)  

AHRQ-funded research focused on optimizing care has led to federal savings that dwarf the funding AHRQ receives each year, and we need the research AHRQ funds and conducts to address persistent gaps in access and deadly racial and ethnic inequities in health and health care. 

This is the right time to significantly increase investments for an agency that has been sorely underfunded for years. Our nation is squandering opportunities to save lives and reduce health care costs. We perceive appointing Dr. Valdez to lead the agency as the first step in an elevating AHRQ’s priority to the pivotal role it can and should play in driving better health for all. 

We also want to thank David Meyers, MD, for his leadership as Acting Director of AHRQ for the past year; he has provided exceptional direction and stability during a challenging time, and we are glad he will remain in his role as Deputy Director of AHRQ. 

Contact Tim Haynes, Senior Director of Communications, at 571-482-2737 or thaynes@researchamerica.org with press inquiries.