Synergy Workshop Participants at the Center of the Reform Debate

    • September 11, 2009

This year, RWJF’s Health Policy Fellows were given a unique opportunity to help shape health care reform at a pivotal moment in the policy-making process. “Each year we have a larger, more enthusiastic group at the Fellow’s annual Synergy Workshop,” said Marie Michnich, Dr.P.H., director of health policy education programs and fellowships for the Institute of Medicine, "but this year was different because we are right in the middle of reform and the Fellows and Alumni are definitely part of the engine that’s driving health care reform.”

Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow (2007-2008) Deborah Trautman, Ph.D., R.N., aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, updated Synergy group members on congressional action on health reform. And group members broke into workgroups to craft proposals intended to add context and vision to the final reform bills being formulated for the September House session beginning this week. “Each group’s recommendations were given to the seven Fellows currently working in key committees,” Michnich said, noting that this year’s group was particularly diverse. “We had nurse executives, clinical scholars, scientists, economists, clinicians; it was an almost perfect confluence of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s investment and effort to contribute to the health care reform process.”

“This year’s group also got a good grasp of the complexity of policy-making,” Michnich said. “They learned that this is about much more than presenting good research. They had a chance to meet and talk with different interest groups. We talk about evidence-based discussions, but this climate let Fellows and Scholars see—up close—that there’s a lot more involved, such as values, the realities of the budget and legitimate disagreements between powerful groups. We hope this will help them to become part of the entire process,” Michnich continued. “That it will help them understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and they have a role to impart by helping people look at the real world problems related to health care.”

The group’s key recommendations include: A call for funding community-based networks of health care workers to help address disparities; creating quality indicators to assist in the monitoring and implementation of certain types of care; developing a pay for performance system for elder care; Medicare reform; increasing insurance enrollment and retention of uninsured children; encouraging education models to create greater access to primary care; increasing the number of advanced practice nurses; funding for nursing education; and designing demonstration projects for new models of care.

The 2009 session was the fifth, annual Synergy Workshop. The Health Policy Fellows is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, conducted with assistance from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. For additional information, log onto