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Saint Louis University, SSM Health Partner in Research Initiative to Improve Public and Patient Health

02/18/2021Media Inquiries

Maggie Rotermund
Senior Media Relations Specialist

Reserved for members of the media.


ST. LOUIS (Feb. 18, 2021) – The Advanced HEAlth Data (AHEAD) Institute at Saint Louis University – a new comprehensive center for data-driven innovation and research – is bringing together researchers from SLU and SSM Health to help improve patient and public health, advance the quality of health care, and decrease health care costs. 

A key component of the strategic partnership is the development of a virtual data warehouse (VDW) comprising de-identified patient data from more than 5 million SSM Health and SLUCare patients. The new VDW will be available only to SLU and SSM Health investigators.

“We are grateful to our partners at SSM Health for their collaboration in advancing our mission as a student and patient-centered Jesuit research university,” said Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., president of Saint Louis University. “Utilizing the expertise and deep data resources of the AHEAD Institute, medical and academic researchers will be able to identify and explore some of the most pressing health challenges of our time and positively affect patient care and health outcomes.”

The VDW is expected to be complete by April 2021, at which time SLU faculty and collaborating SSM Health researchers can present data requests and research proposals to access the information. Throughout the research process, patient privacy is maintained. A key feature of the VDW is that all patient data has been obfuscated, meaning researchers cannot access information identifying specific patients or providers.

With the establishment of the VDW, the AHEAD Institute received unanimous approval to join the Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN), filling a gap as the only Midwest member in the network. The HCSRN and its health-system members provide an exponential increase in opportunities for grant funding and collaboration on a variety of research topics such as aging, heart disease, and mental health. This important milestone and completion of the VDW place SLU among national leaders in patient-centered research. 

“Acceptance into the HCSRN is a validation of how we utilize big data responsibly to conduct research and fuel discovery,” said Leslie Hinyard, Ph.D., director of the Saint Louis University AHEAD Institute. “The quality data and robust methodological procedures used at the AHEAD Institute allow research to be conducted efficiently and applied in meaningful ways. We’re proud to support and collaborate with SLU and SSM investigators as they seek to address critical health issues.”

Current research conducted at the AHEAD Institute encompasses a variety of disciplines and topics, including epidemiology, health services, quality improvement, health outcomes, economics, social determinants of health, and health disparities. Examples of work undertaken by AHEAD researchers include research on COVID-19 surveillance, chronic prescription opioid use and pain management, studies to help reduce hospital readmissions, and assessment of access to diabetes technologies in underserved populations. The VDW is complemented by other data resources maintained by the AHEAD Institute, such as national commercial claims data and national hospital discharge data.

SSM Health is the hospital partner of Saint Louis University. Doctors with SLUCare Physician Group, the academic medical practice of Saint Louis University, see patients at SSM hospitals, including the new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. The VDW is one more way the two organizations can work together to develop research that can positively affect patient care and outcomes. 

“So much critical, groundbreaking work is being done leveraging vast networks of data to create health care solutions,” said Ann Cappellari, M.D., chief medical information officer at SSM Health. “SLU and SSM Health share a faith-based mission to serve, especially those who are vulnerable or in need. We are proud to partner with the AHEAD Institute as we explore innovative health care solutions to benefit the public, our patients and the communities we serve.”

The origins of Saint Louis University’s new AHEAD Institute lie in an internal Big Ideas competition to define university-wide strategic research priorities. The AHEAD Institute is among the projects supported by the SLU Research Institute. For more information, or to support the AHEAD Institute at Saint Louis University, visit

About the Saint Louis University Research Institute 

The Saint Louis University Research Institute advances the University’s ambition to become a preeminent center for basic and applied research. Established in 2018 through a generous gift from Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, the Institute provides critical funding to support outstanding researchers whose interests and areas of study span the University. The Institute strives to become a national and international model for promoting teaching, learning and research that exemplifies discovery, transformative outcomes and engaged citizenship in a global society. For more information, visit

About Saint Louis University 

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 12,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.

About SSM Health 

SSM Health is a Catholic, not-for-profit health system serving the comprehensive health needs of communities across the Midwest through a robust and fully integrated health care delivery system. The organization’s more than 40,000 employees and 10,000 providers are committed to providing exceptional health care services and revealing God’s healing presence to everyone they serve.

SSM Health in St. Louis operates 8 hospitals, 6 urgent care locations, 23 SSM Health Express Clinic locations at Walgreens and more than 35 medical offices in the area. For more information, visit us at or find us on Facebook and Twitter.


The Health Care Systems Research Network, formerly known as the HMO Research Network, includes 19 research centers, each associated with a health care delivery system. Researchers at the centers collaborate on multi-site studies in real-world health care settings across the United States and in Israel. With health care systems serving more than 28.4 million individual patients, the Health Care Systems Research Network can draw conclusions about how best to care for both common and rare health concerns. Network researchers have been answering pressing questions about keeping people healthy and delivering effective care since 1994.