What is the top challenge or obstacle facing health care today?
The affordability of health care. When you ask people what they are worried about, its affordability - the price of their insurance premiums, their copays, their deductibles, and whether they'll receive surprise bills.
What is the most promising development in patient care that you have come across, and why?
Two things really give me hope. One is the quality of people who continue to go into health care. Many of them could choose to go into adjacent industries to make more money or face fewer restrictions or challenges, but they choose health care. When you bring that together with the promise of innovation, it's quite exciting. Digital health, when done right, has the potential to make care more personalized, to rapidly improve affordability, and to address the unequal distribution of care in the United States.
What has you most optimistic about the future of health care?
We don't have to wait years for the next big thing to be put into practice to dramatically improve aspects of healthcare delivery. There are things available now - best practice models of care and innovative solutions - either in this industry, or in other industries but adaptable to health care, we should deploy.
I've been a fan of the Dartmouth Small Area Variations study for a very long time. The study looks at how health care varies across the United States and shows the impact on people when health care is unevenly distributed. What if everyone received the same level of care as those who are served by the systems who deliver the highest-quality care? For example, studies show that African American women are twice as likely to die from complications of pregnancy as Caucasian women. We have ability right now to identify and close gaps like this in health care. While not all of the deaths can be prevented, we can and should do more. Things like this are so achievable if we put our minds to it. When we see something trending in the wrong direction and change it, that's what gives me optimism.
What motivates you to keep doing the work that you do?
We are a provider of health care. What a miraculous thing. If you walk around with me in our hospitals or care centers, you see people taking care of strangers with love and compassion. I get to support those people, work with those people, and do that in a way that works as well for a tiny rural community as it works in a big city. We serve some of the wealthiest parts of the United States, and some of the poorest parts. When we get it right, we can demonstrate how to make health care work in America - and when we don't get it right, we can learn from others.
What is your biggest goal, personal or professional, for the end of 2020?
To continue to make demonstrable progress in areas where there are differences in health equity. It's the focus of our system and of our Chief Medical Officer. It won't be solved in a day, week, month, or year, but I would like to see us make demonstrable progress.
On a personal level, my philanthropic and human passion is making a difference for young adults who emancipate out of foster care at the age of 18 and often do not have a long-term adult connection. This is a group of people for whom we can uniformly predict a bad outcome, whether we're looking at health care or housing or food insecurity. With every program that we implement, we need to ask, "What's going to happen to these young people? Are we going to do something to help?"