Published January 19, 2022
University at Buffalo alumnus Carlos Roberto Jaén, MD, PhD, has been named to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
The task force is an independent volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services, such as screenings, counseling services or preventive medicines.
Jaén is professor and chairman of family and community medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio). He occupies the Dr. and Mrs. James L. Holly Distinguished Chair in the health science center’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine.
His focus areas include improving preventive care for individuals of all ages, preventing complications from chronic diseases and supporting high performance in primary care offices.
Jaén was elected as a member of the National Academy of Medicine in 2013. He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“I am very pleased that Dr. Jaén has been appointed to this important national position,” said Allison Brashear, MD, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “His appointment is testimony to his distinguished career in family medicine and primary care research and as a practicing family physician. We are proud to have Dr. Jaén as an alumnus of both the Jacobs School and UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP).”
Jaén earned a doctoral degree in epidemiology and community health in 1988 from the SPHHP and a medical degree from the Jacobs School in 1989.
“This is a very prestigious appointment for a graduate of both schools, which value evidence-based medicine,” Jaén said. “I owe them my orientation and ability to do the evaluation that allowed me to get to this point.”
“I had a rigorous training in the School of Public Health and Health Professions that enabled me to evaluate evidence in a very proactive way, and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences also provided me the substance that allowed me to do the things that I have been able to do,” he added.
Jaén went on to serve as a faculty member in the Department of Family Medicine in the Jacobs School and in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the SPHHP from 1992 to 2001.
“I am very grateful for all the experiences at UB,” he said.
Jaén left UB when he was recruited as chair of family medicine at UT Health San Antonio.
Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, dean of the SPHHP and SUNY Distinguished Professor of epidemiology and environmental health, was a classmate of Jaén’s in UB’s doctoral program.
“We spent many hours abstracting medical records data and discussing our future goals,” she said. “Carlos was always smart, thoughtful and respectful and had ambition to help others.”
“I knew he would do well in his career, but Carlos has clearly gone beyond anything we dreamed of in those early years — he has established himself as a national leader,” Wactawski-Wende added. “This appointment and election to the national academies are just two remarkable examples.”
Jaén returned to UB a few years ago to serve as the SPHHP alumni speaker at the school’s graduation ceremony.
“With all he has accomplished, he remains humble, always focused on serving the underserved. He is a humanitarian,” Wactawski-Wende said. “I am so proud to call him an alumnus of UB and my friend.”
Jaén’s special interests include improving preventive care for individuals of all ages and preventing complications from chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. He is passionate about building and studying high-performance primary care practices.
Jaén was co-director of the American Academy of Family Physicians Center for Research in Family Medicine and Primary Care. For more than 15 years, the center studied almost 500 community-based primary care practices and completed the evaluation of the American Academy of Family Physician’s national demonstration project of the patient-centered medical home.
An international leader on smoking cessation research, he served on the panels that published the U.S. Public Health Service smoking cessation guidelines in 1996 and 2000 and was co-chair of the panel that published an update in May 2008.
Jaén completed a residency in family medicine and a fellowship in primary care research at Case Western Reserve University and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Niagara University.
The task force issues recommendation statements that have letter grades. A is the strongest recommendation in favor of a service (such as colonoscopy or mammography) and D is the strongest recommendation against. The task force also issues “I” statements when evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of a service.
“The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is probably one of the most consequential committees in the United States because, by virtue of the Affordable Care Act, anything that the task force determines to be A or B evidence for a recommendation must be covered by an insurance plan without charge to the patient,” Jaén said. “Decisions made by this task force affect everyone in our nation.”
Services to be reviewed include screening tests, counseling interventions and medications. The task force focuses only on primary prevention in people who are asymptomatic, before a disease state begins or is evident.
“Task force members review the best evidence there is, look at the risks or benefits of a service, and analyze studies that lay out the pros and cons,” Jaén said.
“On behalf of the full task force, I welcome Dr. Jaén,” said task force Chair Karina W. Davidson, PhD. “Dr. Jaén’s expertise in guideline development and in improving quality and access to preventive care among Hispanic/Latino communities will be especially valuable as the task force works to address racial disparities and health inequities.”
The task force is made up of 16 volunteer members who are nationally recognized experts in prevention, evidence-based medicine, and primary care. Their fields of practice and expertise include behavioral health, family medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and nursing.
Task force members are appointed by the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to serve four-year terms. Members are screened to ensure that they have no substantial conflicts of interest that could impair the scientific integrity of the task force’s work.
AHRQ’s mission is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable and affordable, and to work within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and with other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used.