Leading at the School of Medicine

At the UNC School of Medicine, we constantly strive to be the nation’s leading public school of medicine. We believe that partnership and collaboration are the key to advancing our mission, and our most recent partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) demonstrates our commitment to lead.

Approximately one million North Carolinians are either active or retired military. Many organizations across our state and country work to support these men and women, and now, the School is proud to be a part of this effort. In partnership with BCBSNC, the School is starting a new two-year physician assistant master’s degree program for military medics. This program provides an unprecedented opportunity for these veterans to put their hard-earned skills to work once they return home. BCBSNC pledged $1.2 million over the next four years to help establish the program. We expect to enroll our first class in 2015.

In North Carolina, almost one million people live in areas that do not have adequate access to primary care physicians and services. And, as our state continues to grow in size, access to physicians and quality medical services will be more limited – particularly in rural areas. We anticipate that this program will help increase the number of medical professionals who choose to deliver care in our state. We also hope that other institutions across our state and country will follow our example implement similar programs to support these men and women as they enter the next chapter of service to our country.

Looking back: a health care talk from the 1980s

The Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. In 1989, when I was the deputy assistant for Domestic Policy and director of the White House Office of Policy Development, I spoke, along with others, at the department’s inaugural celebration.

Joseph Califano, Jr., LLB, then Senior Partner of Dewey Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer, and Wood and I gave a talk about “Health Care in the ’90s: The Impending Revolution.” The Department recently uploaded video of this talk to their website, which you can view here.

New infographic from the AAMC

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently released a new infographic that demonstrates how the country’s medical schools and teaching hospitals work to improve patient care. The graphic can be downloaded and viewed here.

The graphic demonstrates how vital medical schools and teaching hospitals are to our country’s health care system. For instance, the nation’s nearly 400 major teaching hospitals train 80,000 residents in primary care and specialty areas each year. Nearly half of all external research funded by the National Institutes of Health is conducted at medical schools. And, AAMC teaching hospitals provide nearly 40 percent of hospital charity care.

UNC Health Care’s status as a teaching hospital allows us to better train the next generation of doctors and better serve the patients we see each day. We are proud to be a part of a nationwide effort to improve care and better train medical students.

The passing of Bill Friday

Bill Friday was a giant in American higher education and in North Carolina public life. And as we celebrate the 219th anniversary of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we remember his countless contributions to the state and the University.

In his three decades of service to the University, he guided the rapid expansion of the system – giving North Carolina a greater ability to provide its students with higher education opportunities.

Dr. Friday also was a friend of the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health Care, and encouraged expanded research and clinical experiences for our students. Because of his dedication to higher education, our medical school continues to expand, allowing us to serve more communities across the state.

Dr. Friday’s contributions to North Carolina are immeasurable and will continue to be felt for generations to come. The state of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina are much the better because of his sustained leadership.

Training medical school graduates outside of Chapel Hill

I was pleased to see the Raleigh News & Observer’s recent coverage of the UNC Family Medicine’s medical training program at Prospect Hill Community Health Center in Caswell County. In the story, Dr. Evan Ashkin points out that the average physician to patient ratio in North Carolina is low – nine physicians per 10,000 patients. This ratio becomes even more skewed in rural and economically vulnerable areas.

The UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health Care are working together to mitigate the health care challenges in the rural areas of our state. One of the ways we do this is by providing residents with opportunities to train in underserved areas across North Carolina – like Prospect Hill.

North Carolina is expected to grow by four million people in the next 18 years, and our state’s health care challenges will grow along with it. Coupled with this growth is an aging physician population. Within 20 years, our state will have 25 percent fewer primary care physicians than we need – particularly in rural areas.

By encouraging residents to train in locations like Prospect Hill, the School hopes to better serve patients in communities that need more physicians and increased access to care. This is an important part of our mission, and I look forward to continuing this commitment to the people of North Carolina.

Joining Medicare NewsGroup

I am pleased to announce that I recently joined the Medicare NewsGroup Advisory Board. Medicare NewsGroup is an independent resource for Medicare news, policy and legislation. Medicare NewsGroup provides journalists with information and materials to help them produce more accurate and comprehensive stories about Medicare.

In my role on the Advisory Board, I will work with three well-respected health care experts to inform the media on Medicare reform. Other members of the Board include Stuart H. Altman, Ph.D., Robert A. Berenson, M.D., and Gail R. Wilensky, Ph.D., all of whom are well versed on Medicare policy and implementation. You can learn more about their background and experience here.

It is my hope that this Advisory Board will help journalists communicate more effectively about a complex program that impacts so many people in our country. I look forward to working with this group to provide accurate and easy-to-understand information about Medicare for journalists to share with their readers.

The First Presidential Debate

Last evening I got to be in the auditorium at the first 2012 Presidential Debate, in Denver.

For someone like me who has long been interested in public affairs, it was a great experience. Being in the hall is much different than watching on TV.

I felt like I was an eye-witness to history.