Risa Lavizzo-Mourey's 2011 President's Message

Jul 6, 2011, 12:23 PM, Posted by

A doctor in the desert. A scientist in outer space. A dentist in the Arctic delivering care on cross-country skis. And a family doctor who's taken to city streets with a radical new way to help the sick get well and cut costs at the same time. These are among the inspiring women and men leading what Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., calls a “quiet revolution in health and health care.”

In her 2011 President’s Message, released late last week, Lavizzo-Mourey notes that “Americans are approaching what’s being called our ‘coming age of permanent austerity.’ Serious economies, some severe, are likely, triggering long-term and significant changes in our daily lives. At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the expectation and proactive design of change, powered by remarkable people and ideas, is the fundamental currency of our philanthropy…. It’s all about the power of people and ideas.”

In her message, available online, Lavizzo-Mourey shares stories from across the United States, including one about the work of Sanjeev Arora, M.D., a University of New Mexico specialist in liver diseases. Arora’s “Project ECHO” is changing the lives of residents of isolated, rural communities by linking local family physicians together with specialists in virtual “tele-clinics,” forming what Arora calls a “knowledge network.” Says Lavizzo-Mourey of the RWJF-funded effort: “ECHO is an extraordinarily potent global model for the delivery of better, cheaper care to vulnerable and underserved rural and urban populations.”

A continent away, Tom Delbanco, M.D., is another health care innovator highlighted by Lavizzo-Mourey. The professor of general medicine and primary care at Harvard University is a leading voice for allowing patients to see doctor’s notes. Delbanco is a lead investigator in the RWJF-funded “Open Notes” project, analyzing what happens when more than 100 primary care physicians in Boston, Pennsylvania and Seattle open their notes and charts to some 25,000 patients by way of an online portal.

Lavizzo-Mourey also spotlights the Institute of Medicine’s “Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” report, the product of RWJF inspiration and funding. She calls the report a “landmark imperative for change that comes loaded with the same urgent authority as previous IOM reports on the quality of care and on patient safety…. The IOM’s conclusions are courageous and consequential,” she continues. “They found that nurses possess ‘a unique ability to act as partners with other health professionals and to lead in the improvement and redesign of the health system and its many practice environments.’”

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