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Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala Speaks with NYAM Mahoney Fellows

 
The 2014 Margaret E. Mahoney Fellows with Dr. Boufford and Dr. Shalala

NYAM was honored to welcome Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services to speak at NYAM on June 10, 2014. Dr. Shalala, also a colleague of NYAM President Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford during the Clinton administration, spoke with NYAM staff and the new cohort of Margaret E. Mahoney Fellows about health care policy reform in the U.S.

The event marked the first in a series of conversations between the Mahoney Fellows and esteemed health leaders including Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and Robert Brook, Distinguished Chair in Health Care Services at the RAND Corporation.

In her talk, Dr. Shalala highlighted the major successes in health care policy in the last century, from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s establishment of Social Security and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Medicare deal to the efforts of the Clinton and Obama administrations to expand health coverage to all Americans, ultimately resulting in the Affordable Care Act. Dr. Shalala emphasized that the success of each of these government health care programs was strongly related to the need to fill a gap when it was not possible to craft a private sector solution to insuring the populations needing coverage.

Dr. Shalala also spoke candidly of the struggles of the Clinton administration on health care reform, saying that “Clinton considered it a major issue” but “the administration—I was part of it—made a lot of mistakes” in developing an overly complex system that couldn’t garner the needed support, and that they ultimately “left it to another generation to handle.”

“It’s difficult to take giant steps in public policy,” Dr. Shalala said. “Lessons of public policy are lessons of coalition building, of understanding your constituency, of understanding the politics of the time you’re in.”

Dr. Shalala also spoke informally with the six Mahoney Fellows and their mentors about her experiences in developing innovative public health campaigns around issues including sudden infant death syndrome, flu shots, childhood immunization, and HIV/AIDS. She emphasized the need to use creative tactics that will speak to the concerns of the relevant constituency—which can mean proceeding with campaigns that some colleagues claim won’t work. 

“Evidence can only take you so far, and then you have to make a decision,” Dr. Shalala said. “We wouldn’t have gotten all the kids immunized if we had listened to the public health professionals.”

NYAM President Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford then spoke with the Fellows about the legacy of Dr. Mahoney, in whose memory the Mahoney Fellowship Program was established after she passed away in 2011. Dr. Mahoney was a distinguished NYAM Fellow and Trustee and a leader in health care philanthropy, including as President of the Commonwealth Fund. She was instrumental in helping to create Healthy Steps, a preeminent national initiative that encourages physicians to closely monitor a child’s development during the first three years following birth.

“Throughout her distinguished career, Maggie was passionately committed to addressing the health care and developmental needs of vulnerable populations, especially children,” Dr. Boufford said. “She was also committed to young health professionals getting into the policy world and being aware.”

The Margaret E. Mahoney Fellowship program provides stipends for outstanding medical, dental, public health, public policy and graduate nursing students to conduct summer research projects on some aspect of health care delivery transformation for vulnerable populations and/or early childhood health and development, with an emphasis on policy implications.

In addition to conducting research over the next ten weeks and engaging in conversations with health leaders, the Mahoney Fellows will participate in seminars on the policymaking process and leadership development. The Fellows will present their research at NYAM on August 14.

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Posted on June 16, 2014

Contact:
Gina Ravosa
Director of Marketing & Communications
The New York Academy of Medicine
1216 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
(212) 822-7285
gravosa@nyam.org

 

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Reporters: to arrange interviews with NYAM medical and urban health experts, contact
Gina Ravosa, Director of Marketing & Communications

(212) 822-7285 / gravosa@nyam.org

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