Why is fixing the U.S. health care system so difficult? Why do so many of our health care quality measurements lag behind those of other countries even though we spend so much more? And what can we do about the seemingly unending increases in health care spending?
Questions like these inspired Michael Barron, M.D., to sign up four years ago for the Policy Strategy program at the prestigious Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. As a participant from the private sector, Barron was a rarity in the program, but he notes that complex organizations — be they health care systems or government agencies — often have more in common than not, and experience similar types of challenges.
“It was incredibly eye-opening to observe the politics, processes and complex interrelationships between policy formulation and implementation,” said Barron, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “Being able to work effectively within and between different sectors is both a science and an art.”
Barron, who has held a number of leadership positions — most recently chief medical officer of UHealth, with earlier high-level roles at Jackson Memorial Hospital — has significant experience in policy and procedure.
“Having an understanding of governance became critical,” he said. “Akin to business practices, these are things doctors aren’t taught. It’s hard to pick them up and learn on the fly. As a CMO, you’re always an ambassador, acting as the liaison between the medical staff and the administration. Where do you learn those skills? This program was a way to pick up some of that knowledge and learn about policy change in complex organizations.”
Inspired by both his own interest in international affairs and UM President Julio Frenk’s strategy to expand the university’s hemispheric reach, Barron chose to focus much of his studies on foreign governance issues. After delivering his capstone presentation and receiving his Certificate in Policy Strategy in March, he moved into Brookings’ Global Challenges Program.
“One of the early global challenges we have studied is understanding conflict and conflict resolution,” said Barron. “It prompts you to think about the big picture. As much as we start locally, the world operates globally. Understanding what is effective diplomacy — developing external friends, allies and alliances — relates a lot to our local roles and responsibilities. It speaks directly to our hemispheric ambitions and to the increasing globalization of health care.”