Behind the Scenes of the RWJF Clinical Scholars Health Policy Podcast

May 26, 2011, 12:00 PM, Posted by

This post is part of an ongoing series of Voices from the Field by scholars, fellows and alumni of RWJF Human Capital programs. The author, Matthew Press, M.D., M.Sc., is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program and is host and producer of the Clinical Scholars Health Policy Podcast series. Press is an assistant professor in the Departments of Public Health and Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

The career path of Dr. Bob Ross, President and CEO of the California Endowment, had an early trajectory that makes the jaws of aspiring health policy leaders drop with admiration: within just two years of graduating from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars program, he became Health Commissioner of Philadelphia.

How did he do it? As I learned when I recently interviewed him for the RWJF Clinical Scholars Health Policy Podcast, it took a little bit of luck and one bold, creative solution to a daunting public health crisis. “It’s not something certainly I either envisioned or foresaw or planned,” Dr. Ross said. “It just kind of happened that way.” Take a listen to the interview to hear Dr. Ross’s story and to learn how the California Endowment, the health foundation he currently leads, plans to spend $1 billion over the next ten years to build healthy communities.

Dr. Ross is the seventh guest in this season of the podcast series, joining a variety of other health policy A-listers who sat down with me for conversations about careers, issues, and anecdotes.

I started the podcast series when I was in the second year of the Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Each month, we had a leader in the field visit the program, which was an absolute privilege for us Scholars. But I thought to myself, “Why not share this amazing experience with the rest of the health policy community?” A few months later, the podcast series was born—and continues to grow. Now, the guests I interview are not only visitors to the Penn program but also can be faculty or alumni from other sites. And we’ve had over 1,000 website plays and iTunes subscriptions!

One of my favorite interviews this season was with Dr. Richard Besser, formerly the Acting Director of the CDC and now the Chief Health and Medical Editor at ABC News. He gave a detailed account of the early days of the H1N1 influenza outbreak and explained how communication with the public was a key piece of the CDC’s strategy for managing the epidemic. “We did not want to turn down a single interview,” he said. Listen to the full interview to hear more, including how Dr. Besser approached a briefing about H1N1 with White House cabinet members.

Other guests this season weighed in on many of the most pressing public health and health policy issues of the day. In the wake of health care reform, Dr. Bob Galvin, executive at the Blackstone Group and faculty member of the Yale program, gave a business perspective on expanding insurance coverage, while Dr. Nirav Shah, just weeks into his job as Health Commissioner of New York State, outlined a plan for reducing Medicaid costs. Combating childhood obesity was the focus of my conversation with Dr. Don Schwarz, a former RWJF Clinical Scholar and the current Health Commissioner of Philadelphia. In their interviews, Dr. Carolyn Clancy (Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) and Dr. Bob Wachter (Professor of Medicine at UCSF) talked about the state of health care quality and what we can do to improve patient safety.

My goal has been for the podcast series to be the go-to resource for personal, engaging, and informative conversations with health policy leaders. I try to ask the questions you’d want to ask and to cover the topics that are of greatest interest and concern. Take a listen, let me know what you think, and enjoy!


This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.