EB: What is the mission of the NCEPCR?

PO: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) believes that revitalizing the nation’s primary care system is foundational to achieving AHRQ’s mission of improving the quality, safety, accessibility, equity, and affordability of health care. According to the Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999, AHRQ was expected to establish a center that “shall serve as the principal source of funding for primary care practice research in the Department of Health and Human Services.”1 AHRQ has a long history of supporting primary care research and established the NCEPCR in 2015 to expand and be AHRQ’s intellectual home for this work. The NCEPCR sits in the Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement (CEPI) at AHRQ, led by Dr. Arlene Bierman. AHRQ has an extensive and expanding primary care portfolio including work in dissemination and implementation, digital health, and learning health systems; it is also developing multiple funding opportunities relevant to primary care researchers and engaging in primary care tools and data development. The NCEPCR role is to provide evidence, practical tools, and other resources for researchers, evaluators, clinicians, quality improvement experts, and healthcare decision makers to improve the quality and safety of care in the nation’s primary care system.2 With recruitment of a new Director of the NCEPCR, AHRQ is well positioned to expand its capacity to further advance AHRQ’s primary care research mission.

EB: What are your plans for building up the NCEPCR?

PO: To increase the impact and value of the broader primary care work supported by AHRQ, the current vision for NCEPCR is to expand AHRQ’s on-line resources for supporting primary care research, expand its convening center function with special emphasis on primary care related issues, create a virtual community of primary care researchers and stakeholders, and ultimately to lead AHRQ’s diverse portfolio of funded research activities covering priority areas in primary care research. The funded activities will encompass research on issues related to primary care delivery, workforce, and outcomes as well as primary care’s critical role in advancing health equity. AHRQ supports dissemination and implementation of research findings as well as efforts to improve primary care research methods, including use of data, networks, and support systems. The NCEPCR aims to expand this work and capacity to better meet the needs of primary care researchers and clinicians in order to improve access, quality, and outcomes of care for people and their communities.

EB: How do you plan to strengthen the primary care research workforce?

PO: Recognizing that its mission depends on having a robust primary care research workforce, the NCEPCR is committed to building the necessary workforce by developing opportunities for training programs and career development awards in primary care research. On October 22, 2021, AHRQ released a Special Emphasis Notice announcing its interest in supporting career development awards for emerging investigators in the field of primary care research.3 Also, AHRQ’s mission within the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund includes training PCOR researchers. AHRQ is advancing this mission by training PCOR researchers embedded within health systems. The Learning Health System training program has been very successful in training scholars, and one could envision expansion of this program into primary care settings.4

EB: What is your vision for the future impact of NCEPCR?

PO: My goal is that the NCEPCR will further its impact by: 1) making primary care better and more valued in the healthcare system; 2) improving understanding of the role of primary care within the healthcare system; 3) showing how to leverage primary care to achieve better outcomes; 4) giving primary care clinicians a stronger evidence base and tools for being more effective in managing care for people in real world settings; 5) strengthening the role of primary care researchers in the continuum of biomedical and public health research; 6) creating a listening post for primary care researchers; and 7) establishing a diverse expanded community of primary care researchers.

PO: Eric, how do you think SGIM can support the NCEPCR?

EB: SGIM is highly committed to supporting the NCEPCR’s mission. SGIM’s Health Policy Committee will continue to advocate for strong federal support of primary care research. SGIM’s leadership has offered to help facilitate participation of its members in listening sessions about plans for building up the NCEPCR. SGIM’s leadership also is prepared to help engage its members in efforts to develop a comprehensive curriculum for the training of primary care researchers, taking advantage of lessons learned from SGIM’s work in developing a curriculum on partnered research for the Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Service.5


  1. AHRQ. Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999. https://www.ahrq.gov/policymakers/hrqa99a.html. Accessed January 15, 2022.
  2. AHRQ. About AHRQ’s National Center for Excellence in Primary Care Research. https://www.ahrq.gov/ncepcr/about/index.html. Accessed January 15, 2022.
  3. NIH. Special Emphasis Notice (SEN): AHRQ announces interest in supporting Primary Care Research Career Development Awards. https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-HS-22-002.html. Accessed January 15, 2022.
  4. AHRQ. Learning health systems. Building the workforce. https://www.ahrq.gov/learning-health-systems/building-workforce.html. Accessed January 15, 2022.
  5. Haggstrom D. VA Partnered Research Training Program. https://www.hsrd.research.va.gov/partnered_research/VA-Partnered-Research-Training-Program-Overview.pdf. Accessed January 15, 2022.



Health Equity, Health Policy & Advocacy, Leadership, Administration, & Career Planning, Medical Education, Research, SGIM

Author Descriptions

Dr. Bass (basse@sgim.org) is the CEO of SGIM. Dr. O’Malley is the Director of the NCEPCR.