Alumni Reunion Weekend 2012: Health Care Panel

Health Care Headlines P&S Day Program

A panel of experts answered health care reform questions submitted by alumni around the country and by members of the audience at this year's reunion, continuing the debate started at last year's reunion. Keynote speaker at the morning P&S Day Program on May 5 was Herbert Pardes, M.D., Hon.'98, executive vice chairman of the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Board of Trustees, retired CEO and president of the hospital, former vice president of CUMC and dean of the Faculty of Medicine at P&S, and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health. 

Reunion weekend health care panel

Other members of the experts panel, which was moderated by Kenneth A. Forde'59, were Lee Goldman, M.D., executive vice president for health and biomedical sciences and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine; Linda P. Fried, M.D., dean of the Mailman School of Public Health; Miriam J. Laugesen, Ph.D., assistant professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School; and Charles Ornstein, senior reporter at ProPublica, board president of the Association of Health Care Journalists, and adjunct assistant professor of journalism at Columbia University. Peter Carmel'70 MSD, president of the American Medical Association, who had been scheduled to participate but was kept away by AMA business, delivered videotaped remarks. 

"Never before has health care attracted the degree of attention and been put under such scrutiny as it has today," Dr. Pardes said in his opening remarks. Tapping hands-on knowledge gleaned as president of NYP, he revealed, "If you want to know the health of a hospital, ask for starters what's your Medicaid cost?" As a vital health and cost-saving measure, Dr. Pardes urged that more emphasis be placed on psychiatric care in tandem with medical care. He stressed the need for M.D.s and hospital administrators to work together to tighten coordination of care and reduce errors. Finally, he insisted that no single cookie cutter health care model will fit all communities. 

Peter CarmelIn his videotaped remarks, Dr. Carmel urged doctors to get organized and get involved in the health care reform process. (For more of Dr. Carmel's take on the American medical system, see the Alumni Profile in the Fall 2012 print issue of Columbia Medicine.) 

Dean Goldman spoke of the need to address human behavior. "A few preventive measures save more money than they cost." Addressing the question of whether health care is a right or a privilege, Dr. Fried opted to define health care as a right, albeit adding, "We have a lot of conflict and confusion in this society about what our core values are." Dr. Pardes proposed the establishment of medical courts to judge malpractice cases, as a step on the way to tort reform. Mr. Ornstein noted that "we are not set up as a health care system to help patients understand the cost of their care" and argued that patients, not physicians, should lead the push for health care reform. Dr. Laugesen disagreed, insisting that physicians had the necessary knowledge to lead effective reform.