Kathleen Fairfield, MD, MPH, DrPH

Physician Scientist

Research Interests

  • Health care disparities
  • Healthcare delivery science and practice variation
  • Shared decision making practice and education

Dr. Fairfield is a Physician Scientist, and Associate Professor of Medicine, Public Health & Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. Her education and training includes an A.B. from Bowdoin College, M.D. from Boston University School of Medicine, and internship and residency at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. She completed the Harvard Medical School fellowship in General Medicine, earning an MPH and DrPH in Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. After serving on the faculty at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. Fairfield joined Maine Medical Center (MMC) in 2002.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic Dr. Fairfield has become involved in leading research to address the pandemic. This includes a major grant from the RADxUP program, funded by the NIH and aimed at addressing disparities in COVID-19 in underserved populations.  The Maine award focuses on testing access and perceptions among immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, and people who are low-income and accessing public health services. An additional funded research study addresses drivers of vaccine hesitancy in rural populations of Maine.

Dr. Fairfield’s previous research is at the intersection of health services research, improvement science in health care delivery, and population health. She established the IMPROVE Study (Improving Maine’s Population Health, Research Impact, Outcomes, Value, and Equity through Education). This work includes analyses of large health care claims from an all-payer dataset, medical records, and health behavior datasets to understand patterns of health care and the complex relationships between health care delivery and population health. Active research projects include analyses of variation in care and outcomes of opioid use, malignancies, and cardiovascular disease as they relate to health behaviors. In order to disseminate this work, Dr. Fairfield co-developed a seven-month Certificate in Health Care Improvement with Dr. Peter Bates and The Dartmouth Institute, aimed at training inter-professional teams about these concepts in the context of local improvement work.

Dr. Fairfield holds several leadership roles, including serving as Co-Director of the Academy at MITE (MMC Institute for Teaching Excellence) and Vice Chair of the Department of Medicine for Research and Quality Improvement.  She is also the Director of the Division of Healthcare Delivery Science at MMC. She has received research support from the AHRQ, NIH, PCORI, Maine Cancer Foundation, the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation, American Cancer Society, and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

In addition to her research, education and improvement science activities, Dr. Fairfield sees patients and supervises residents in the International Clinic at MMC. She is board certified in Internal Medicine. Dr. Fairfield also volunteers as a primary care provider and Medical Director for the Portland Community Free Clinic.

Harder VS, Plante TB, Koh I, Rogers EB, Varni SE, Villanti AC, Brooklyn JR, Fairfield KM. Influence of opioid prescription policy on overdoses and related adverse effects in a primary care population. J Gen Intern Med. 2021. PMID: 33948793.

Hutchinson, RN, Han, PKJ, Lucas FL, Black AB, Sawyer D, Fairfield KM. Rural disparities in end-of-life care for patients with heart failure: Are they due to geography or socioeconomic disparity? J Rural Health, 2021, published online 5/28/2021. PMID: 34043838.

Hayes V, Williams E, Fairfield KM, Falank C, McKelvy D, Cahill B, Bing-You R. Impact of a New Institutional Medical Journal on Professional Identity Development and Academic Cultural Change: a qualitative study.  Learned Publishing, 2021, in press.

Harder VS, Varni SE, Murray KA, Plante TB, Villanti AC, Wolfson DL, Maruti S, Fairfield KM. Prescription Opioid Policies and Associations with Opioid Overdose and Related Adverse Effects. International Journal of Drug Policy, 2021 Jun 6;97:103306. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103306. Online ahead of print.

Fairfield KM, Black AW, Siewers SE, Lucas FL, Cohen MC, Healey CC, Briggs AC, Han PK, Wennberg JE.   Behavioral Risk Factors and Regional Variation in Cardiovascular Healthcare and Death. Am J Prev Med 2018;54(3):376–384.

Hutchinson RN, Lucas FL, Becker M, Wierman HR, Fairfield KM. Variations in Hospice Utilization and Length of Stay for Medicare Patients with Melanoma. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2017; S0885-3924(17)31085-0.

Hoffman RM, Elmore JG, Pignone MP, Gerstein BS, Levin CA, Fairfield KM. Knowledge and Values for Cancer Screening Decisions:  Results from a National Survey. Patient Education and Counseling 2016;99:624-630.