You’ve said it’s important to take care of the ‘whole community.’ How can health care providers make progress on persistent social problems, and how does academic medicine fit in?
SE: The traditional concept
of being a physician or clinician is taking care of the illnesses that are in front of you and ending it there. And we’ve realized that, in order to keep our patients healthy, we have to have a much more holistic view of what their lives
are like. So things like food insecurity and homelessness, or racial inequity in the way we deliver care, or poverty in the way it impacts access, all of those factors play such an incredible role in the health of that particular patient and the
population we’re dealing with. It means we need to understand the support structures that exist in our communities; what role we can play directly, to help patients access that support; and how we can act as real advocates in our community
to our legislators and regulators, talking about the importance of those social determinants of health.
We’re being asked, more and more, to think about the population at large and the impact we’re going to have on our communities. So education in public health, as part of medical education, is critically important. As we move to population
health and value-based care, as we are in Vermont, there’s such a great opportunity for our students and residents to take advantage of that education that’s happening here. We’re ahead of the curve.
What’s your vision for the future of the UVM Health Network, and what needs to happen next?
hope patient access becomes a non-existing issue that we would be looking back on. That means people get the care they need, when they need it and where they need it—the most appropriate place—and we’ve figured that out, across
our Network and across Vermont. That includes a strong, statewide system of inpatient and outpatient mental health care, and our Network can play a leading, coordinating role in that. And it means we would have a National Cancer Institute-designated
program that offers the very best comprehensive cancer care.
I want to see the idea of digital health become more of a reality, so we actually have a virtual hospital, or virtual care platform. So that might mean you’ll go to our website,
and it’s there. If you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor, you’ll do it online. If you need to do virtual consultation with your primary care doctor or specialist, it will be there—you’ll be able to do it
easily. Also, I believe we need to make hospital at home, where you recover or get care in your home instead of coming to the hospital, a normal part of the spectrum of care that we deliver and our patients expect.
We need our measures of the
quality of care and inequity to become really clear and transparent, so we have a very tangible measure of how good our quality is, and can identify where we have challenges in the equity space, in terms of access to and delivery of care. And
then we can see tangible results in the improvement of quality and elimination of the inequity that we know exists.
Internally for our Network, our goal is that our patients are getting state-of-the-art care in the best facilities possible, in
an environment that maximizes their healing. That, to me, means private rooms for our inpatients. There isn’t overcrowding in our emergency rooms. We have the right technology, whether it’s in the operating room, endoscopy centers
or in our radiology suites.
Another goal is for our workforce to be content in their employment and in the work they’re doing. We don’t have a shortage, because people love to work here—that’s the dream of where we would
be. Part of it is the environment we create, where you can be your true self in your place of work. It’s inclusive, so you know you’re going to be welcome, and your ideas are going to be welcome. It doesn’t mean we reach consensus
on everything, but that everyone feels heard and respected.
We’ve got so many challenges right now, but we’re going to get beyond this. It’s absolutely necessary that we pursue our long-term vision, because it’s the right
thing to do for our patients and communities. All of these things are essential to being a provider of great health care, now and for the long run. And that’s what we want to be.