By Matthew Kredell
USC Price professors Antonio Bento and Jason Doctor won the School’s 2018-19 High Impact Research Award, which honors faculty research that addresses a critical issue facing society and had a demonstratable impact on improving policy, practices and discourse in the public or private sectors.
The professors were recognized for their articles published in Science, one of the world’s top academic journals.
It’s rare for public policy articles to be featured in Science.
”Science focuses heavily on basic sciences and other laboratory sciences,” Doctor said. “For a human science policy article to appear there is a really nice thing.”
Doctor’s journal article evaluated of there were decreases in opioid prescriptions after clinicians received letters learning of their patient’s fatal overdose.
Two-thirds of the 70,000 deaths from drug overdoses in the United States during 2017 were from opioids, with nearly half resulting from prescriptions.
San Diego County took a proactive approach to the problem by sending letters to prescribers of opioids notifying them when someone died from an opioid overdose.
In a randomized study, Doctor found that the letter was effective in reducing opioid prescriptions by 10 percent.
Following the publication of Doctor’s research in Science last August, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to send such letters monthly. Doctor worked with the County to get the program off the ground, and the first letters were sent out in April.
Baltimore and Philadelphia also voted to adopt the method. The Massachusetts attorney general adapted the approach and is now doing it statewide.
“It’s really an honor,” Doctor said. “We all work hard as faculty here and to have your colleagues choose that you receive this award means a lot. I’m humbled by it.”
Bento’s paper in the December issue of Science illustrated how the Trump Administration’s justification for a rollback of fuel economy standards had fundamental flaws and inconsistencies. As lead author, he assembled a distinguished panel of academics that detailed how there is no economic justification for the rollback.
The study received a tremendous amount of media attention in publications such as The Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Forbes and the Chicago Tribune.
As a result of the study, many groups – even automakers – have called for the proposed rollback on fuel efficiency for vehicles not to move forward. As the State of California and Attorney General Xavier Becerra try to convince the Trump administration against the rollback, Bento asserts that this academic study is one of the strongest arguments they are using.
“I am honored to receive this award,” Bento said. “In a lot of respects, the ultimate goal of this research is aligned with our mission at Price. That is, to improve the quality of life of those in our communities here and abroad. Hopefully by pointing to major flaws in the calculation of the costs and benefits of the proposal to roll back fuel economy standards, this work helps preventing a bad policy proposal from moving forward.”