The Leadership and Health Policy Management Program at the Heller School is designed to provide clinical participants with an understanding of how health policy is developed, the forces that act upon it, and how the healthcare industry influences the rest of our economy and society. Furthermore, the program provides insight into the managerial and leadership skills physicians need to engage others – both within outside of healthcare – to ensure that we continue to provide high quality and efficient care for our patients.
I was quite honored to be selected as the American College of Surgeons and American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons 2010 Health Policy Scholar. I was part of a diverse group of surgeons that represented nearly all the specialties of surgery, as well as anesthesiologists, a medical oncologist, and a psychiatrist.
Some were part of large multi-specialty integrated academic programs, while others were in private practice. This diversity of views made the classroom and after class discussions highly engaging, thought provoking, and intellectually stimulating. Bringing these many views together clearly demonstrated the difficulty we as surgeons and physicians have in articulating the essential elements of providing outstanding patient care and what it means to be a healthcare professional.
This year, the first quarter of the course was devoted to understanding the recently passed healthcare reform legislation. The focus was not just on the details of the law but, more importantly, the history of how society reached this point. Dr. Michael Zinner, Chairman of Surgery at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, provided a fascinating review of the evolution of healthcare and health insurance in the United States, as well as the expanding role of government in healthcare. Subsequent speakers discussed how health policy decisions, or lack thereof, have shaped the modern healthcare scene.
These lectures were all supplemented by the pre-course readings, which were quite extensive. They ranged from high-level overviews to detailed analyses of healthcare financing. Some of the most engaging readings were case studies. These were interesting, since many of us had encountered the issues raised in these studies. These studies were also used to highlight aspects of leadership and management skills that are essential to our profession during these tumultuous times.
For me, the ACS/ASCRS health policy fellowship was a phenomenal experience. It was an opportunity to learn about the elements that are continually shaping and reshaping our profession. This was a chance for those of us who have spent years working in the “trenches” of medicine to interact with the “policy wonks” that develop healthcare policy from a societal perspective. It also made me aware of the crucial role surgeons must play in forming the debate and shaping the future of healthcare in the United States.
As surgeons, we are used to the challenges of clinical medicine in the OR and the floors because of our training. Unfortunately, that training did not provide us with the skill-sets to maneuver in the executive boardrooms or halls of Congress, which increasingly are determining the direction of our profession. The health policy fellowship program at the Heller School clearly provides a strong foundation and the motivation to meet these new and exciting challenges.