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Former UB researcher chosen for national health task force

A headshot of Dr. Carlos Roberto Jaen in his white lab cost and stethoscope.
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Dr. Carlos Roberto Jaen.

A doctor who did health research on Buffalo's West Side when a faculty member at the University at Buffalo's Jacobs Medical School now has one of the most important positions in the national health care system.

Dr. Carlos Roberto Jaen is now a member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The 16 members are called upon to evaluate medical care and decide what treatments and services will improve the health of people nationally. The task force is made up of doctors with special expertise in an array of fields.

"We have a country that doesn't value health care as a common good, who discriminates and really excludes many people from the ability to get access to care and they die early," he said. "Here in San Antonio, there is a ZIP code where people die 20 years earlier than the rest of San Antonio."

Jaen is now professor and chairman of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

"What we do is we look at what is the evidence of that actually working. Does it work? Does it save lives? Does it get people to live longer and have better lives? Those are the kind of questions that we ponder in the task force and we try to come up with answers that are based on what we know," he said.

Jaen said the COVID crisis has shown deep flaws in the health care system, many of them apparent when he was doing deep research on 846 families on the West Side, as the fate of the former Columbus Hospital was being decided. He said
what was found led to drastic changes in health care in the neighborhood.

"So many disparities that are present throughout all our cities and all our country and the best evidence is what groups are most likely to die from COVID and those are people who are Black, Latinos and Indigenous communities," Jaen said.

A native of Panama, Jaen said many of those most vulnerable have jobs that don't allow them to work from home. They have to go to work every day, often in very risky jobs in health care and potentially pay a deadly price.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.