A little bit of catch up here -- but I like the combo. In the past month, the Patrick Administration has made two important health policy appointments and, characteristically, they made high quality and smart picks.
First, Dr. Lauren A. Smith MD MPH has been chosen to be the new commissioner of the Department of Public Health to replace John Auerbach who resigned last month in the wake of the State Drug Lab mess. Lauren has been the Chief Medical Officer at DPH since 2007. She was responsible for the Department's response to the H1N1 influenza outbreak and led development of standards for sports head injuries and school nutrition. She was responsible for community level obesity prevention and other key prevention initiatives.
Dr. Smith is a pediatrician and previously served as Medical Director of the Pediatric Inpatient Unit at Boston Medical Center. Lauren was educated and trained at Harvard College, the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and the UCal Berkeley School of Public Health. She completed her residency and chief residency at Children's Hospital, Boston and her fellowship in General Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. Lauren Smith is a great choice to head up and lead DPH. She understands the power of prevention and public health. Her appointment is a strong indication that DPH will continue as a strong force for prevention and public health.
Second, Dr. Stuart Altman has been selected as the first chairman of the new Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, the entity created under last summer's new health care cost containment law. Stuart is the most distinguished and experienced health policy expert in Massachusetts, bar none. A former Dean of the Heller School at Brandeis, and former Acting President of Brandeis, Stuart has been deeply involved in every key U.S. health policy episode since the early 1970s when he led health policy development for President Richard Nixon.
The 11-member Commission that Altman will chair is responsible to monitor the growth in state health costs and to recommend new policies to the Legislature if costs rise faster than projected. Stuart will give this new commission unparalleled gravitas and credibility. He will help to keep a national spotlight on this important work -- something that will also keep the pressure on the new structure to do its work robusly. No one can pull the wool over Stuart's eyes, and this is a great appointment and a great sign of seriousness on the part of Governor Patrick and his Administration.
Two good signs for the future of health policy in Massachusetts. Kudos to Governor Patrick.
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