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2 key Indian American physicians quit Obama administration

June 17, 2011 11:25 IST
Two key Indian American physicians from the Obama administration, who worked on implementing healthcare reforms, are stepping down from their posts to return to clinical practice.

Dr Sachin H Jain, 30, and Amol S Navathe, 32, worked for the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Jain served as a senior advisor to the administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, while Navathe served as the medical officer and senior programme manager in the office of the assistant secretary of planning and evaluation.

Dr Sachin H Jain

Jain helped to launch the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to test new models of healthcare payment and delivery.He helped in architecting the center's key processes and recruited its leadership and staff. As a senior advisor to administrator Donald M Berwick, Jain advocated for speedier translation of diabetes care research into practice and an expanded the use of clinical registries.

"I took leave from Harvard for my clinical work and my leave is expiring. Accordingly, I am returning to my clinical position at the Brigham and Women's Hospital," Jain told rediff.com.

Speaking of his experience of serving in the Obama administration and the importance of putting in a few years of public service, he said, "There will always be opportunities to contribute to society through the private sector. But this is a unique time with a unique president with a special opportunity to affect change in the area I am most passionate about -- healthcare."

"President Obama assembled an outstanding team of leaders to implement healthcare reforms and I feel grateful for the opportunity to work with them, to enact fundamental changes in the structure of our healthcare system," he added.

According to Jain, Indian Americans have received a lot from their participation in American society-- economic, social, and educational opportunities. "It is our obligation as American citizens to contribute to the long-term viability of the nation through participation in the policy-making process," he added.

He said that his interest in public service came from his father, a physician who trained in India but practiced in the United States. "He always encouraged me to increase my knowledge on the policy-making process. He engaged me in discussions and debates about issues, which taught me to be a critical thinker. When the opportunity to serve arose, he was the first to encourage me," he said.

Jain pointed out that "the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is a cornerstone of the healthcare reform law. It will test models that will improve health, improve care, and reduce costs.

"The secretary of Health and Human Services is vested with the authority to bring to national scale any model that reduces costs and improves quality. A key part of the center's approach will be the partnering of frontline practitioners -- doctors, nurses, and hospitals-- with patients to identify the best ideas for how to improve care. The best ideas for how to improve care reside with the people who receive and deliver it," he said.

"Electronic health records will transform the delivery of healthcare by creating the data infrastructure to measure its quality. My work at the ONC for health information technology focused on pushing the private sector towards supporting the broad and meaningful use of health information technology," he added.

Previously, Jain was a special assistant to national coordinator David Blumenthal for health information technology. He played a crucial role in implementing the $30 billion national programme to promote the adoption of electronic health records funded in the Recovery Act.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 appropriated $1.1 billion to the HHS department specifically for comparative effectiveness research. It aims at comparing different interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions. 

Jain received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College; his medical degree from Harvard Medical School; and his master's degree in business administration from the Harvard Business School.

A native of Alpine, New Jersey, Jain has served in several non-profit healthcare ventures including the Homeless Health Clinic at UniLu, the Harvard Bone Marrow Initiative, and ImproveHealthCare.org. He worked with DaVita-Bridge of Life to bring charity dialysis care to rural Rajasthan and on medical missions for children to bring cleft lip and palate surgery to the region. He has worked previously at McKinsey and Company, WellPoint, and the institute for healthcare improvement. He was also a faculty at the Harvard Business School.

Amol S Navathe

Navathe led the $1.1 billion comparative effectiveness portfolio, which was established to develop new research comparing the benefits and harms of alternative methods to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor conditions.

He is regarded as one of the chief architects of the America's comparative effectiveness strategy, which is expected to lower cost of healthcare and improve outcomes.  He also spearheaded the coordination of federal investments in data infrastructure across the Recovery and Affordable Care Acts and has been a key proponent of public-private partnerships for research.

Navathe, who is leaving to pursue further clinical training in internal medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, echoes Jain sentiments. "I am very passionate about the intersection of public policy and clinical medicine, so developing clinical excellence is my key priority. I feel this is a worthy investment that will help me guide a policy that improves the delivery of healthcare and stay in touch with the needs of the patients I hope to serve."

Speaking of his experience in the Obama administration, he said, "The levels of commitment and expertise in the administration leadership were very inspiring. Working with the leaders in actively shaping the future of our healthcare system was a tremendous learning experience. It gave me a first- hand experience in serving the public -- lessons I will hold closely as I seek public service in the future," Navathe told rediff.com.

 "I am very thankful to President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for providing the leadership needed to institute change in our health system and providing opportunities to people like me to serve in doing so," he added.

According to him, Indian Americans, particularly those belonging to the second generation, should engage in at least a few years in public service. "It is extremely important for Indian Americans to give back to a country and society that has provided them so much opportunity," he added.

Navathe's parents came to US with a mere $8 in their pocket. "They were able to build a future for the family through hard work and education.  None of this would have been possible without the meritrocratic American focus.  By serving the country, we have the opportunity not only to give back to the people but also a chance to enhance India's standing within the American view," he said.

"Indian Americans have excelled exceptionally in the US. This success in many economic sectors is a critical opportunity to apply their learning and skills for the betterment of the society as a whole. I am very optimistic that more Indian Americans will seek to apply their knowledge in political and policy-making processes. This will be for the best of both American society and the Indian American community within it," said Navathe.

To maximise the quality of healthcare delivery, robust evidence to support clinical decisions -- particularly those decision that present patients and physicians with choices -- is critical. That is the mission of the comparative effectiveness research programme, he said.

"My team was given the task to implement a programme to build an evidence base for clinical decisions that simultaneously served as a stimulus to the American economy. We created a national strategy and framework to allocate the dollars according to priority patient populations, medical conditions, and interventions," he said.

"We also implemented this strategy through contracts and grant programmes to fund clinical and observational research, build more training programmes, advance the infrastructure underlying the American medical research, and improve the translation of evidence into practice," he added.

According to Navathe, the advent of policy reform created numerous initiatives to improve the national information technology infrastructure for healthcare and medical research. "It was exciting to synthesise them into a unified framework that optimised synergies and maximised the impact of each taxpayer's dollar. The result is a data infrastructure strategy that will improve the efficiency of healthcare and form a basis for future innovations," he said.

Navathe received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and economic systems from the Stanford University, his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his doctoral degree in healthcare management and economics from the The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, he is currently an adjunct faculty member at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and is regarded as an expert on physician and hospital economic behaviour. Previously, Navathe served as a visiting fellow at the council of economic advisers in the White House, as a management consultant with McKinsey and Company, and in numerous technical and research consulting roles.

 

 

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC