"I impress upon my students the business aspect of public health. Since many students work or will work in the public sector, I know that they will be much better advocates for public health if they can speak to all the concerns of the community, including the financial ones," Paul Fishman recounts. A scientific investigator at the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle and an Affiliate Associate Professor at the University of Washington's School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Dr. Fishman brings an economic perspective to both his research and teaching. From his recent work on the role of health research in the prevention of genocide to his desire to make students conversant in economic theory and history, Dr. Fishman's belief that "economics is not a necessary evil, but an integral part of public health" suffuses his work.
Dr. Fishman received his doctorate in economics from the University of Washington in 1990 and has been affiliated with the Extended MPH Degree Program since 1992. He teaches courses mainly on health economics and research methods. He describes his approach to teaching as "a conversation that I moderate, not a monologue," and he is quick to admit that economics are never far behind. His ultimate goal is to equip his students to evaluate and incorporate information from many different perspectives so that they can make the best decisions possible as public health advocates. Dr. Fishman is aware that few students enter his classroom with a deep interest in economics, yet he knows that as the class progresses even those students who were initially afraid of the subject matter will come to recognize the value of the course. "Unlike many other courses," Dr. Fishman laughs, "students find that the material is more relevant to their personal experiences than they first thought—they get increasingly excited as the class progresses."
Dr. Fishman's work with students extends beyond the classroom as well. He assisted Extended MPH Degree Program Alumna Dr. Reva Adler, clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia, and her coauthors with a study about the role of health data in the prevention of genocide. According to Dr. Fishman, this publication was "a direct outgrowth of the Extended MPH Degree Program." The research was also presented at the 2003 meeting of the International Society of Genocide Scholars in Galway, Ireland.
In addition to the work on genocide prevention, Dr. Fishman's recent research includes studies on domestic violence suffered by older women, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and depression, hormone replacement therapy and mammography, smoking cessation, and chlamydia treatment in young women. However, despite the breadth of his research, these studies are united by his focus on questions about the economic efficiency of providing health care. In reflecting upon the impact of his work, Dr. Fishman says that "we know what is the right—the moral—thing to do, but how do we get the health care delivery system to achieve this? Projects succeed when it makes economic sense to do the right thing. We must demonstrate the connection between the right thing and what makes sense from a business perspective." Dr. Fishman's studies on smoking cessation programs and mammography screenings provide empirical support for this approach to health care.
In sum, Dr. Fishman describes himself as "an economist that looks at health care, not a public health studies person who draws on economics," a fact illustrated by both his teaching philosophy and research agenda.