A Vision for Health Policy
In the current landscape of health policy and health care reform, experience underscored by a collaborative mindset is a necessity. Furthering the efforts to fulfill a long-range master plan for programmatic collaboration in health policy, clinical trials, regenerative medicine, genomics, and life science innovation, the Texas Medical Center announced the appointment of Arthur Garson, Jr. M.D., MPH, to serve as director of the newly formed Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute.
“Dr. Garson’s insight, expertise, and visionary leadership make him the ideal selection to direct our Health Policy Institute,” said Robert C. Robbins, M.D., president and chief executive officer of the Texas Medical Center. “Having developed policy and drafted legislation, Dr. Garson is the perfect person to help the Texas Medical Center emerge as a world-leading health center. We are delighted to welcome him back to Houston.”
The Texas Medical Center’s Health Policy Institute will focus on fundamental health policy issues important to Houston, the state, the nation, and beyond, including topics such as public health advocacy, health care delivery models, health care funding, patient quality outcomes, patient safety and health ethics. As director, Garson will develop and implement the institute’s strategic vision, managing the operations and funding in support of that objective.
“At a basic level, the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute will revolve around creating approaches to health policy that are unique to both Houston and Texas” explained Garson. “We want to take some of those approaches that might be piloted here and make them available nationally, and even internationally. The vision of the institute, as determined by the strategic planning committee and I, is to go from local to international.”
“[Garson] was always at the forefront of policy and innovation; he became very much involved in developing new ways to administer health care,” said Jack Sweeny, chairman of the Houston Chronicle. “He always had a love of the public policy side of health care, considering ways that costs could be lowered and innovations in affordable health care could be achieved. He even established a rapport with our editorial board and I was publisher at the time, so I helped him get his work published.” Sweeny and Garson have cultivated a close friendship for over two decades, ever since Garson oversaw the heart surgery of Sweeny’s 11-year- old son at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Previously, Garson served as the director of the Center for Health Policy at the University of Virginia (UVa), where he was also a professor of Public Health Sciences and Public Policy. Until 2011, he served as executive vice president and provost of UVa, where he was responsible for overseeing the university’s 11 schools and a $1.3 billion academic budget. As provost, Garson recruited 7 of the 11 deans throughout UVa and established the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. UVa’s Center for Health Policy provided Garson with a foundational model for what he hopes to achieve at the medical center. “In an interesting way, it wasn’t dissimilar to our aims at the Texas Medical Center. It was all about fostering discussion and stimulating collaboration.”
“Utilizing expertise across our member institutions will enable the Texas Medical Center to develop policy solutions for the benefit of all,” added Garson. “We will seek collaborative strategies with external organizations while advancing health policy across the medical center. The institute will fund research and teaching programs, some of which are aimed at educating the public.”
According to a non-profit organization based in Texas, health policy broadly describes the actions taken by governments—national, state, and local to advance the public’s health. The roughly 20 percent increase in life expectancy across the United States is due to public health measures that affect individuals. Examples include seat belts, smoking regulations and immunizations, and such currently approaching issues as the MERS epidemic. Health care policy, in particular, deals with the organization, financing and delivery of health care services, ranging from training of health professionals to administering public programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
At some level, health policy influences each of the 54 member institutions within the Texas Medical Center. “This is the single most varied group of institutions in the world in one place, and we have the opportunity to tap on the wide ranging interests of our community,” said Garson. “I suspect that there isn’t an area of health policy, in either the U.S. or internationally, that someone within the medical center isn’t interested in. When this group decides to sink its teeth into a particular problem, it will be able to create solutions for incredibly diverse groups of people.”