Colleen Gillespie

Colleen Gillespie
Assistant Professor of Medicine

Colleen Gillespie, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor within the Division of General Internal Medicine at NYU's School of Medicine.  She has taught the core doctoral Research Methods course (PHD-GP 5901) since her appointment as a Research Professor at the Center for Health and Public Service Research at Wagner and also teaches Program Analysis and Evaluation (PADM-GP 2171) in the Spring semester.  In addition, Dr. Gillespie lectures and mentors resident physicans, fellows, and medical students on methods, measurement, program evaluation and research design.  Dr. Gillespie received her Ph.D. in community psychology from New York University's Graduate School of Arts and Science and her B.A. in psychology and history from Rice University.

Dr. Gillespie's main interests include medical education research, health services research, and program evaluation.  Within medical education research, her focus is on evaluating innovations in the education and training of health professionals, understanding and improving the doctor-patient relationship and using performance-based assessment to better understand the development of clinical competence.  Research interests also include the translation of evidence-based health and mental health practices into real world settings, program evaluation, and more broadly, social and institutional influences on health and health-related behavior.  She has conducted formative, process, and outcome evaluations of evidence-based and promising mental health treatment practices, including an alternative to incarceration program for felony offenders with serious mental illness, adaptations of ACT (Assertive Community Treatment), and a multi-site demonstration project seeking to integrate employment and clinical services in Continuing Day Treatment Programs.  Special areas of interest include the intersection of the mental health and criminal justice systems, HIV prevention, substance abuse prevention and treatment, provider/patient communication, patient decision-making, and improving care for underserved populations. 

Dr. Gillespie's current focus grows out of a collaborative project within the Division  called ROMEO - Research on Medical Education Outcomes - which seeks to develop the evidence base for medical education, focusing especially on linking residency training to the quality of patient care and to actual patient outcomes. 

Dr. Gillespie uses mixed methods in most of her evaluation studies and seeks to make use of the most rigorous designs possible, given the realities of applied research.  She enjoys teaching people how to do research and in particular how to creatively develop and refine methodological approaches that work in complex, applied settings and she is also very interested in the challenges of measurement, especially the use of performance-based assessment approaches.

Semester Course
Fall 2012 PHD-GP.5902.001 Research Methods

Required for doctoral students.

This course prepares the student to do and to evaluate social science research using a variety of research methods. Basic issues regarding the formulation of research questions, research design, and data collection and analysis are addressed. The course material encompasses both quantitative and qualitative methods in the discussion of the basic components of the research process: conceptualization and measurement, sample selection, and causal modeling. In addition to teaching techniques and conventions of doing research, the course also acquaints the student with critical issues in the philosophy of science, ethical questions, and how to write a research proposal.

Download Syllabus
Date Publication/Paper

Elbel B, Gillespie C, Raven MC. 2014. Presenting Quality Data to Vulnerable Groups: Charts, Summaries or Behavioral Economic Nudges? Elbel B, Schlesinger M. Responsive Consumerism: Empowerment in Markets for Health Plans. The Milbank Quarterly. 2009; 87(3): 633-682.


Despite the increased focus on health care consumers' active choice, not enough is known about how to best facilitate the choice process. We sought to assess methods of improving this process for vulnerable consumers in the United States by testing alternatives that emphasize insights from behavioral economics, or 'nudges'.


We performed a hypothetical choice experiment where subjects were randomized to one of five experimental conditions and asked to choose a health center (location where they would receive all their care). The conditions presented the same information about health centers in different ways, including graphically as a chart, via written summary and using behavioral economics, 'nudging' consumers toward particular choices. We hypothesized that these 'nudges' might help simplify the choice process. Our primary outcomes focused on the health center chosen and whether consumers were willing to accept 'nudges'.


We found that consumer choice was influenced by the method of presentation and the majority of consumers accepted the health center they were 'nudged' towards.


Consumers were accepting of choices grounded in insights from behavioral economics and further consideration should be given to their role in patient choice.


Yedidia, M.J., Gillespie, C.C. & Berstein, C.A. 2006. Training Psychiatrists for Public Sector Care: A Survey of Residency Directors on Current Priorities and Preparation Psychiatric Services. 57:238-243, February

OBJECTIVE: This study assessed how resident psychiatrists are being prepared to deliver effective public-sector care.

METHODS: Ten leaders in psychiatric education and practice were interviewed about which tasks they consider to be essential for effective public-sector care. The leaders identified 16 tasks. Directors of all general psychiatry residency programs in the United States were then surveyed to determine how they rate the importance of these tasks for delivery of care and how their training program prepares residents to perform each task.

RESULTS: A total of 114 of 150 residency directors (76 percent) responded to the survey. Factor analysis divided 14 of the tasks into three categories characterized by the extent to which their performance requires integration of services: within the mental health system (for example, lead a multidisciplinary team), across social service systems (for example, interact with staff of supportive housing programs), and across institutions with different missions (for example, distinguish behavioral problems from underlying psychiatric disorders among prisoners). Preparation for tasks that involved integration of services across institutions was rated as least important, was least likely to be required, and was covered by less intensive teaching modalities. Tasks entailing integration within the mental health system were rated as most important, preparation was most likely to be required, and they were covered most intensively. Midway between these two categories, but significantly different from each, were tasks relying on integration across social service systems.

CONCLUSIONS: Tasks that involved integrating services across institutions with different missions were consistently downplayed in training. Yet the importance of such tasks is underscored by the assessments of the psychiatric leaders who were interviewed, the high valuation placed on this type of integration by a substantial subset of training directors, and the extent of mental illness among populations who are institutionalized in nonpsychiatric settings.

Yedidia, M.J., Gillespie, C.C., Kachur, E., Schwartz, M.D., Ockene, J., Chepaitis, A.E…. & Lipkin, M. 2003. Effect of Communications Training on Medical Student Performance Journal of the American Medical Association, 290 , pp. 1157-1165. [and editorial comment, pp. 1210-1212.]

Although physicians' communication skills have been found to be related to clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction, teaching of communication skills has not been fully integrated into many medical school curricula or adequately evaluated with large-scale controlled trials. This study concluded that communications curricula using an established educational model significantly improved third-year students' overall communications competence as well as their skills in relationship building, organization and time management, patient assessment, and negotiation and shared decision making-tasks that are important to positive patient outcomes.

Yedidia, M.J., Gillespie, C., and Moore, G. 2000. Specific clinical competencies for managing care: views of residency directors and managed care medical directors Journal of the American Medical Association, 284,1093-1098.