Physician Leadership Symposium Focuses on Health Care Reform

May 7, 2018

With health care reform in a state of flux, more than 150 students, faculty and alumni of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Physician Executive MBA (PEMBA) program at the Haslam College of Business gathered to discuss the future of patient care and the health care industry in the United States.

Steven Stack speaking to a groupSteven Stack, a physician and adjunct professor of healthcare policy at Haslam, explained that many contemporary challenges have historical roots. Stack, a past president of the American Medical Association, discussed the health care debate dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

“One of Theodore Roosevelt’s great regrets was that he didn’t come up with some sort of health care system,” Stack said. “This is fascinating because, prior to the 1940s, physicians were limited in their ability to impact the disease process.”

Stack traced health care history through to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. He framed the debate about the ACA in terms of political polarization and cultural values such as individualism, self-reliance and Federalism.

“We need to understand history and look at the data, because the big fight surrounding the ACA has been political and about who we are as a society,” Stack said. “The reality is premiums have grown stratospherically for a long time. The ACA could have accelerated or amplified these trends, but they were already well established.”

Stack encouraged participants in the Physician Leadership Symposium to consider both the cultural context in which health care reform is being carried out, as well as the hard data available.

“You are here as physicians working to further your understanding of business, and how capitalism and finance works, and so understand that we have a responsibility to provide leadership and to rise above our individual politics,” Stack said.

Suzanne Ben-Kane, an internist from Miami and a current PEMBA student, said the Physician Leadership Symposium gave her insight into new career paths she can pursue upon completing her degree.

“Right now, I see many more avenues forward, because I’m learning what the program’s alumni have accomplished,” Ben-Kane said. “The program and symposium have broadened my knowledge and given me a better understanding of the business of medicine.”

Eneida Roldan (PEMBA, ’03), chief executive officer of the Florida International University Health Care Network and associate dean for international affairs at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in Miami, said she was excited to be back at Haslam for the symposium.

“It has been the most wonderful experience,” Roldan said. “Needless to say, PEMBA has propelled my career and my leadership journey well beyond just medicine. I’m very happy to see all my colleagues and that they have done so well. They have grown in leadership roles, and they are contributing tremendously to the healthcare environment.”