May 2, 2012
My past two messages have struck a chord with many of you, as responses to them have been coming into my office almost daily over the past few weeks. What I've heard from you often echoes my sentiments in those messages - that our key focus must be on treating patients to the best of our ability, regardless of their ability to pay, and the status of health reform and health insurance. Many of you have expanded on those ideas, noting the pressure that pragmatism frequently places on idealism, and rightly observing that although it might not be "about the money," fiscal issues are a huge part of the health-care discussion.
I'm particularly interested in the communication I've had with students, who are deeply committed to becoming caring, compassionate health professionals, yet are wondering how economic and social forces will affect their future vocations. By way of example, I'll use the words of one applicant who sent me this note about health care reform and her worries about the role health insurance might play in real-world patient care:
"I have been observing this situation more lately, and as a prospective physician, I'm nervous to become a doctor. Not because of the debt I will inevitably collect, but about the situations I will be placed in where I would have to deny service to a patient because of their insurance or lack thereof. I never want to turn away anybody due to their inability to pay. I only want to turn away patients because they're already healthy. That'd be ideal.
"And I'm curious about the point you made about how politicians are not going to change health care, but health care professionals will. But as health care professionals, what can we do to change the system? How do we make political changes?"
" ... I cannot work under a system that makes me turn patients away from treatment. If I do that, I will feel as if I am betraying my own soul."
These are powerful questions and powerful feelings, ones I'm certain more than a few of you share. I believe these thoughts, and countless others like them, can serve as the basis for an enlightening and lively thread of discussion we should have across our Pomona and Lebanon campuses, and indeed across all of health-care education.
The ongoing analysis of what works and what doesn't in health care today, especially on the money end of things, looms large in our national conversation. Many of the problems are evident, some less so. But where do the answers to these problems lie? To my mind, they are in the heads, hearts, and hands of today's health professions students - tomorrow's leaders in the world of health care.
So the call to action is this: Be catalysts for change by engaging in this discussion now. As you learn the ins and outs of the professions, you will make your own for the rest of your lifetimes, ask the questions. Bring every stakeholder you can imagine to the party - mentors, providers, peers, friends, family - and welcome their questions and concerns, too. Reach out to your elected representatives, health care association leaders, academic health centers, public and private hospitals, and clinics, and wherever else the answers might lie. The best ideas for the future of health care could well emerge from someone or somewhere that simply has never been asked what they would do.
The forum can be these messages, WesternU's Facebook pages, e-mail, Twitter - wherever people will come together to further the discussion and start moving into action. I'm excited about where we can take this at WesternU, and where else it could go from there.
We're off to a good start. Let's keep this conversation going.
As always, I welcome your feedback on this topic and any others as we discuss WesternU's Benchmarks of Value, and our plans. Please e-mail me with your thoughts at email@example.com, and feel free to share this message with your family and friends.
All the best,