Iain Browne / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Dr. Don Berwick, former administrator of the centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and former president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement spoke at the 14th annual Physician Leadership Symposium, held earlier this month at the Opus College of Business.

With his credentials, you might expect his presentation to be filled with medical terminology and jargon–however, Berwick began by introducing us to his beloved and most brilliant four-year-old grandson, and a character from the Harry Potter books, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  As a proud grandfather, physician and expert in providing quality health care, Berwick is deeply concerned for the present status and future of U.S. health care.

What does Voldemort (gasp!), have to do with health care?  Using Harry Potter’s evil character as a metaphor, Berwick defined 11 monsters — economic and social variables impacting our health care system. The unspeakable hot topics included:

  • recognizing waste in medical care
  • financial greed
  • unnecessary innovations
  • the hegemony of professional organizations
  • not caring for those most in need
  • lower-cost medical care solutions
  • demonizing discussions of end-of-life care.

Berwick explained that we need to face our fears and prejudices to understand what is happening now with the American health care system.  He declared that it is a dangerous time in health care because society is not facing the serious economic, social and political issues that negatively impact individuals and delivery of medical services, products and procedures.

Outlining current medical challenges and reflecting that society is not facing critical issues in a civil or moral manner, Berwick also gave examples of his experience with Washington D.C. politics, where it was mandated what issues he could or could not address. (Challenged by censorship, he is running for governor of Massachusetts, which will provide him a platform to advocate for his concerns.)

Berwick concluded that health care professionals need to change the way they think about health care, the measurement of health care, and the need to focus on what is the right thing to do based on morals and compassion for all.

Dr. Berwick is voice for those without power and is an advocate for health care and the responsibilities of a civil society. He speaks truth to power and I will be watching his run for governor.

This commentary is by Diana Cohen, Ed.D. ’99. She has worked with the Opus College of Business UST MBA programs for more than 15 years in admissions and advising. Photo credit: Iain Browne / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND