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St. Anthony Main
219 Main Street SE, Suite 302
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414

(f) 612.623.8807

We added three new faces to our team recently – one in each of our three divisions. Say hello to Sam, Heather, and Jake!

Sam Carlson, Associate Analyst

Sam is a data-enthusiast with a background in tobacco-control policy and smoking cessation research. She enjoys working on community-oriented projects where she can see timely impact and real-world application of research findings. She also loves learning new statistical methods and SAS programming tricks to better meet the needs of our clients. Sam will support the data processing, sampling, and analysis for many of the state cessation programs that we evaluate. She will also conduct analysis and provide data support for other statistics and evaluation projects as needed.

Prior to PDA, Sam worked at the Association for Nonsmokers-MN, supporting local tobacco policy research and implementation efforts.  During graduate school at the University of Minnesota (UMN), she worked as a research assistant for the School of Public Health Tobacco Policy Research Group, as well as the UMN’s Tobacco Research Programs. There, she was a study coordinator for a clinical trial on using exercise to promote self-initiated quit attempts among smokers. After graduate school, she worked as a biostatistician for the UMN Medical School, Department of Family Medicine & Community Health. During her time at the UMN, she co-authored 11 articles published in peer-reviewed journals and 20 abstracts for professional meetings.

Sam received her Master’s Degree in Public Health (Epidemiology) with a minor in Biostatistics from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in the spring of 2016. Her Bachelor’s Degree is in Spanish Culture & Literature with a minor in Community Health Education from the University of St. Thomas.

In her free time, Sam volunteers as an advisor and co-founder of a nonprofit food-rescue organization called TC Food Justice. She also enjoys long-distance running, yoga, and exploring local restaurants and breweries with her soon-to-be husband.

Heather Moore, Evaluation Specialist

Heather has extensive experience using evaluation data to create tailored programs and services to meet the unique needs of intended populations. She enjoys seeing how the results of process and formative evaluations can be applied to improve programs and services for recipients. Heather brings an empathetic and intuitive approach to her work. She is especially passionate about disparities in healthcare and the way in which thoughtful and well-designed evaluations can identify gaps in services and improve outcomes for priority populations. Heather will focus on the evaluations of a statewide comprehensive cancer control program and initiative to improve healthy eating and active living in 23 Ohio counties as well as a tobacco cessation program in Hawaii.

Prior to joining PDA, she directed the evaluations of patient and family services at a Minneapolis-based healthcare non-profit organization. In her role, she led the strategic planning efforts, conducted systems thinking to implement a customized evaluation model, and guided the work of multidisciplinary teams to ensure effective program and evaluation planning for patient and family services. She also managed the evaluation activities under grant-funded projects, and led the development of patient-friendly consent forms and educational materials for a clinical trials network. Heather is experienced in disseminating evaluation results through presentations at national conferences and publications in peer-reviewed journals. She has been a member of the American Evaluation Association since 2007.

Heather received her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Minnesota in 2007. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from St. Catherine’s University and a professional certification in health education.

In her spare time, she likes to travel, bike, practice yoga, read, and bake. Despite her love for international travel and hopes to live abroad someday, Heather is a devout Minnesotan and even enjoys the winter…through a window, anyway.

Jake Mathias, Software Developer

Jake is a software developer with strengths in the .Net framework, including ASP.NET MVC, Windows Services, and WPF applications. He enjoys the process of designing and architecting clean solutions with an emphasis on data integrity.

Jake joined PDA in January of 2018 and is currently assisting in the continuing development and maintenance of a software system for Florida’s Department of Health.

He started his career as a Support Analyst, and worked his way into a developer position while also completing his degree. His previous development experience had a heavy focus on automated data management, including the transfer, mapping, and analysis of data.

Jake recently obtained his B.S. in Computer Science from Metropolitan State University.

Jake enjoys spending his free time attempting new recipes, strumming his acoustic guitar, and starting personal creative projects, such as designing video games and dabbling in 3D animation. He also loves staying active year-round, whether that be weight-lifting, jogging, or snowboarding during the winter.



Posted in General, PDA Staff

We recently added a project manager to our team! Evan Shrader is an energetic project manager who excels at creating and enhancing structural efficiencies and promoting effective team strategies. Evan thrives on making projects easier for those he works with, on keeping a handle on complex priorities, and on pursuing projects that make life better for those impacted. Evan believes that getting any project to the end-zone requires a great team that can work well together while maintaining a positive and friendly atmosphere.

Evan will spend his time enhancing the current project management process at PDA, as well as managing the projects of PDA’s software development team. Evan is also involved in several of the Evaluations and Statistics projects at PDA.

Prior to joining PDA, Evan worked as an IT Project Manager at Provident Funding Associates, where he managed the proprietary cross-matrix software development projects of several key financial and business divisions. His background includes both Waterfall and Agile project management methodologies, helpdesk support, technical research and design, software user-testing, process innovation, budget analysis, and team management.

Outside of PDA, Evan loves spending time with his family. He mentors youth through his local church, and loves individualistic sports, including skiing, rock climbing, martial arts, and ice-skating. When the weather’s warm, he and his fiancé go camping as often as they can… although both being redheads, they often have to stay in the shade.

Posted in PDA Staff

Written by Heather Zook

ClearWay MinnesotaSM awarded two-year grants to three health systems in Minnesota between 2014 and 2016. The purpose of these grants was to increase the health systems’ capacity to address tobacco use with patients. Each health system utilized multiple strategies to conduct systems change, and these strategies varied across grantees. Strategies included: utilizing a team-based approach; building system-level support; implementing tobacco screening, treatment, and referral protocols; modifying electronic health record (EHR) systems; training staff; and reporting and monitoring progress.


PDA conducted a process evaluation of the systems change grants. Evaluators held semi-structured, in-person interviews with key staff from each health system at three points in time (baseline, mid-point, and end of project). We also reviewed grantee documentation, including progress reports, meeting notes, and presentations. At the end of the two-year grant cycle, PDA developed a case study for each of the funded health systems (see links at end of post).



Include grantees in developing the final product

When developing a public-facing document for a health system, you will likely need to get final approval from multiple levels within the organization. This takes time, particularly if you include images such as an EHR screenshot or workflow that may be proprietary. It is important to include health system staff (in this case, the grant coordinator) in case study development to ensure that the wording accurately reflects the project activities. Along these lines, it is helpful to establish relationships with health system staff, especially when evaluating grant-funded projects, because staff may leave the organization once the grant ends.

Finalize all text in Word before moving to PowerPoint

This was PDA’s first time using PowerPoint to create case studies, and it was a great learning experience. We were inspired by Nancy Duarte’s Slidedoc, which is a document that falls somewhere in between a PowerPoint presentation and a report written in Word. First, we learned (the hard way) the importance of finalizing all text in a Word document before working in PowerPoint. This is especially key if you have multiple people reviewing and editing the text. Although you can add comments, PowerPoint does not currently have an easy method to track changes; therefore, it is difficult to see what edits other people have made. In addition, most edits to the text impact the formatting and spacing of other objects on the page. Thus, all formatting should be done after the text is finalized.

PowerPoint provides flexibility for designing case studies

On a positive note, we learned that PowerPoint is an excellent platform for designing case studies! It provides a lot of flexibility for adding images, shapes, and colors. PowerPoint makes it easy to add visual variation to each page, which is especially helpful when working with a lot of text. Even something as simple as a background image can draw in the reader and bring life to a text-heavy page.

Working in PowerPoint also encouraged us to focus the content of each page on a couple of key points, creating digestible chunks of information for our client. In Word, it’s easy for a section to bleed onto the next page or span across multiple pages. The format of PowerPoint helped us to focus our message and incorporate a visual to emphasize that point.


Links to case studies:

Hennepin County Medical Center

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

CentraCare Health


Posted in General, Qualitative Methods, Systems Change

We are participating in some upcoming conferences in the field of tobacco control!

The Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco’s annual meeting was in Florence, Italy March 8-11. Sadly, no PDA staff attended in-person, but we did co-author several posters.

The North American Quitline Consortium’s conference is March 20-21 in Austin, TX followed by the National Conference on Tobacco or Health, also in Austin, March 22-24. Several PDA staff will be in attendance at these two conferences. Austin isn’t Italy, but we’ll take it.

See below for a brief description of the posters and presentations that we are involved in. And say hi to Harlan, Julie, Becky, Amy, or Katherine if you see them there!

Harlan, Julie, Becky, Amy, and Katherine are attending the NAQC/NCTOH conferences


Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco

Expanding quitline reach:  Minnesota’s and Oklahoma’s experience with a new service model

Barbara Schillo2, Laura Beebe3, Becky Lien1, Paula Keller2, Amy Kerr1, Paola Klein3, Stephen Gillaspy3, Randi Lachter2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota; 3 University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

[Poster] Both Minnesota (in 2014) and Oklahoma (in 2015) changed cessation service models. The presenters share their experiences including marketing strategies.  This research demonstrates that innovations in service delivery combined with statewide mass media campaigns have the potential to expand reach among tobacco users while achieving effective outcomes.


Offering choices engages more smokeless tobacco users in a quitline

Raymond Boyle2, Paula Keller2, Becky Lien1, Bruce Christiansen3

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota; 3 University of Wisconsin-Madison

[Poster] With the availability of NRT starter kits in 2014, ClearWay Minnesota saw an increase in the number and percent of smokeless tobacco users enrolling in QUITPLAN Services. This study uses Wisconsin quitline participants as a neighboring control to Minnesota and discusses the unintended impact of new services.


Strategic use of media modalities to maximize service volumes: Predictors of a statewide cessation program

Barbara Schillo2, Marietta Dreher2, Andrea Mowery2, Becky Lien1

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota

[Poster] This poster presents a study conducted to predict which media events were associated with an increase in inbound call volumes and web visits to QUITPLAN Services. Results demonstrate that a variety of media approaches work to achieve high levels of service volumes.


North American Quitline Consortium

Real-world application of reach ratios: A tool to monitor quitline reach among priority populations

Becky Lien1, Emily Subialka Nowariak1, Randi Lachter2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota

[Presentation] The Reach Ratio is a simple metric that has not yet been widely adopted by quitlines. This presentation will provide practical information necessary to calculate the metric, and will encourage quitlines to consider assessing the reach of priority populations when they assess overall reach.


National Conference on Tobacco or Health

Treating tobacco dependence through systems change: A process evaluation of three Minnesota health systems

Megan Whittet2, Traci Capesius1Heather Zook1, Paula Keller2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota

[Poster] The purpose of this poster is to add to the evidence base regarding how health systems can make changes to routinely address and treat tobacco use dependence within their patient populations.


Maximizing scarce promotional dollars: Strategic analysis of media tactics to increase service volumes

Marietta Dreher2, Becky Lien1, Barbara Schillo2, Andrea Mowery2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota

[Presentation] This presentation will describe a methodology that identifies the impact different media tactics have on service volumes and how they work to increase service volumes. Analyzing the effectiveness of media tactics can help managers maximize scarce promotional dollars to increase cessation services volumes.


Linking low-SES smokers to cessation services: Key strategies, successes, and lessons learned

Amy Kerr1, Carole Specktor2, Heather Zook1, Emma Ramsbottom Wagner1, Paula Keller2, Lija Greenseid3

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota; 3 Greenseid Consulting

[Poster] While overall tobacco use rates continue to drop, higher rates persist among people with low-socioeconomic status (SES). ClearWay Minnesota funded 13 Minnesota organizations that serve low-SES tobacco users to connect their clients to existing tobacco cessation services and build organizational capacity to do so. Through semi-structured interviews with key informants from grantee organizations and reviews of grantee reports, the evaluation explored key strategies to connect clients to cessation services, along with successes, challenges and reach. This poster will describe key findings, which can be used by tobacco control practitioners, community-based organizations, and evaluators as they determine the best methods to engage traditionally hard-to-reach populations.


A collaborative effort to implement a statewide bi-directional eReferral system:  Practical experience from Tobacco Free Florida

Julie Rainey1, Jane Parker2, Colin McDonough3, Harlan Luxenberg1

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida; 3 Optum

[Presentation] The presentation will discuss how the development of eReferral systems fit into the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida’s strategic plans, the quitline vendor’s role in the implementation phase, elements of the bi-directional data exchange, how the evaluator extended the quitline referral system for use by the in-person cessation programs, and share evaluation results including the rate of conversion from referral to program enrollment.


Building a web-based application for managing, monitoring, and evaluating a multi-site tobacco cessation program in Florida

Harlan Luxenberg1, Julie Rainey1, Marilyn Leeds3, Jane Parker2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida; 3 Florida State University

[Poster] The Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida (BTFF) oversees a multi-site tobacco cessation program which provides face-to-face group counseling to over 20,000 tobacco users annually through Florida Area Health and Education Centers (AHECs). In 2014, BTFF asked the evaluator to design and develop a custom web-based program that would improve BTFF’s understanding of how funds were being spent, the programs’ ability to make data-based programmatic decisions, and the evaluators’ ability to provide timely reports. This poster will share how TFFACT has supported the standardization of the AHEC program; improved program operations, reach and efficiency; improved data quality; access to more data for the evaluation and BTFF.


Meeting tobacco users where they are: How Florida built a statewide referral system within employment centers to connect the unemployed with cessation services

Katherine Rehorst1, Elisia Norton2, Anne Betzner1, Julie Rainey1, Jane Parker2, Marilyn Leeds3

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida; 3 Florida State University

[Poster] Florida institutionalized a fax referral process within CareerSource Florida to identify unemployed tobacco users and refer them to phone, online, and in-person cessation services. This session describes the development of the statewide CareerSource referral system, and shares lessons learned from the successes and challenges experienced during implementation. Results from a process and outcome evaluation document the number of CareerSource -generated referrals and program enrollments providing preliminary evidence that non-medical referral sources like CareerSource are competitive with traditional medical referral programs, and have the potential to reach under-served groups and improve access to services.


Posted in General, Presentations

PDA is currently seeking a part-time program evaluation intern for the summer of 2017. It is a 10-week paid internship. We are looking for an upper level undergraduate student or masters-level graduate student who is interested in learning more about and getting more experience in the field of evaluation. For more information about this internship and how to apply, click here.


Posted in Job Openings

In November, Lara Rubinyi joined the PDA team as an Associate Evaluator. Lara received her Master of International Public Affairs degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before joining PDA, Lara worked with [rp] Collective in Kathmandu, Nepal to build healthy, community-focused urban plans. She has experience conducting large-scale research and evaluations on STEM education, child protection, dental services and opioid use, vector-borne disease, climate change, and migration. The common theme of her work has been creating healthier communities through evidence-based practices. She especially loves using both qualitative and quantitative methods to discover what is working and how to make programs work better.

At PDA, Lara will work on several projects including evaluations for the Florida Department of Health’s in-person cessation program and the Hawaii Department of Health’s community grant program.

In her free time, Lara enjoys camping, traveling, learning new instruments, and writing. Her new goal is to visit as many state parks in Minnesota as possible and maybe write a song about it.


Posted in PDA Staff

Emma Ramsbottom Wagner, Associate Evaluator

In May, Emma joined the PDA team as an Associate Evaluator. Emma just received her Master of Arts degree in Evaluation Studies from the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining PDA, Emma served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at the Hispanic Committee of Virginia, spent several years coordinating and developing non-profit programs in the Seattle area, and most recently carried out evaluation projects with Planned Parenthood of MN|ND|SD and Hamline University.

At PDA, Emma will primarily work on evaluating ClearWay MN’s community engagement grantee programs and processes and the Hawaii Department of Health’s statewide tobacco quitline and in-person tobacco cessation community grants program.

Emma is drawn to the facilitative aspects of evaluation work and enjoys collaborating with stakeholders to effectively surface, organize, and respond to their evolving ideas and needs.  She is also enthusiastic about data visualization, and loves incorporating creative elements into her communications and reports.  In her free time, Emma is an increasingly adventurous baker, pop culture nut, and very uncompetitive runner.


Colin Summers, Developer

Colin joined PDA in May as a developer. The main project he is working on is the construction and design of a large software system for the Florida Department of Health for tracking an in-person tobacco cessation program. His current technology focuses are .NET MVC, AngularJS and Microsoft SQL Server.

Colin received his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin – Parkside in 2013. He then moved to the twin cities to work as a Developer at Magenic where he gained experience with a variety of technologies including .NET MVC, Microsoft BizTalk and MongoDB.  There he was recognized as Consultant of the Quarter for Q4 2015 for demonstrating excellent professional communication and technical skills and his ability for quickly mastering new technologies.

Outside of work, Colin enjoys spending time with his family and two dogs. He is busy getting ready for the second addition to the family, another son, expected this October. In his free time, he enjoys cruising in his Subaru WRX, fixing up his Fiat Spider, and playing video games.


Margaret Merrill, Stats Intern

In early June we welcomed Margaret, who has been serving as our Stats Intern this summer. Margaret just received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Statistics from St. Olaf College.

At PDA, Margaret will help with the analysis of data having to do with tobacco cessation and other public health programs. Margaret is interested in data visualization and is excited to spend her summer at PDA. Outside of work Margaret enjoys playing tennis and reading.


Posted in General, PDA Staff

PDA is currently seeking an IT Manager to oversee our infrastructure. The IT Manager will be responsible for effective provisioning, installation, configuration, operation, and maintenance of systems hardware and software and related infrastructure inside our company. We have a laidback and casual atmosphere and are looking for a passionate person who loves computers, servers and technology and is excited about having a leadership role. For more information about this position, qualifications, and how to apply, click here.


Posted in Job Openings

Written by Heather Zook

What is an eReferral?

An electronic referral (eReferral) is a method for electronically sending data between a healthcare provider and an outside health-related agency. eReferrals are integrated into Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, so they are automatically documented in the patient’s medical record.

At PDA, we recently started working with eReferrals in the field of tobacco cessation. If a patient reports tobacco use to their healthcare provider and expresses interest in receiving tobacco cessation support, the eReferral is automatically populated with the patient’s contact information and sent to the tobacco cessation program.

What are the benefits of eReferrals in tobacco cessation?

More referrals: The number of referrals by healthcare providers to tobacco cessation programs has been shown to increase significantly when switching from a fax to eReferral system.1-2

Increased efficiencies: Using eReferrals saves time and money, as healthcare staff no longer need to fill out referral forms by hand. With eReferrals, the tobacco cessation program is directly notified of the referral while the patient is still in the exam room.

Better communication: eReferral systems are bidirectional, which means that the outcome of the referral (e.g. patient enrolled in the program or patient received nicotine replacement therapy) is automatically sent back to the referring provider and documented in the patient’s electronic medical record. This open communication benefits the provider, program staff, and the tobacco user!

Documented Meaningful Use: Implementing eReferrals can help healthcare systems achieve and document the tobacco use EHR Meaningful Use Core Objectives and Clinical Quality Measures.3

How is PDA working with eReferrals?

PDA has configured our PDAExchange automated data processing system to receive eReferrals from an EHR system and then transmit them to a system for tobacco cessation program staff to follow-up with patients. PDAExchange will also transmit outcome data back to the provider about the status of the referral.

To learn more about how quitlines are utilizing eReferrals, check out the North American Quitline Consortium’s resources on electronic quitline referrals.



1 Warner, D. D., Land, T. G., Rodgers, A. B., & Keithly, L. (2012). Integrating tobacco cessation quitlines into health care: Massachusetts, 2002-2011. Preventing Chronic Disease, 9, 1-7.

2 Adsit, R. T., Fox, B. M., Tsiolis, T., Ogland, C., Simerson, M., Vind, L. M.,…Fiore, M. C. (2014). Using the electronic health record to connect primary care patients to evidence-based telephonic tobacco quitline services: a closed-loop demonstration project. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 4, 324-32.

3 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2013). 2014 Clinical Quality Measures adult recommended core measures. Baltimore, MD.


Posted in General, Technology

PDA is currently seeking a Program Evaluator to join our team of evaluators, statisticians, and developers. We are looking for someone who is detail-oriented, a self-starter, and who would be able to contribute to the full range of a client, including developing evaluation plans and logic models, analyzing and interpreting quantitative and qualitative evaluation results, and effectively and efficiently reporting findings to clients and other stakeholders. For more information about this position, qualifications, and how to apply, click here.


Posted in Job Openings