Q&A | Dr. Basu Goes to Washington

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 - Pat Basu
Pat Basu, MD, MBA

Healthcare has become as much a matter of politics as medicine in the U.S., leading many physicians to fear that determinations about the fate of their specialties may lie entirely outside of their control. For the first time, though, the White House Fellows program, a non-partisan post that plucks mid-level experts to diffuse their thoughts into the highest levels of government and groom them for national leadership, has a radiologist in the mix.

Pat Basu, MD, MBA, from the department of radiology at Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, Calif., spoke with Health Imaging & IT about his experience working with some of the nation’s highest policymakers and its implications for radiology as his 2010-11 appointment came to a close, and his call to his colleagues to explore new roles in politics and leadership.

Q: As a radiologist, what are your goals in working with the federal government?

Basu: I’m a first-generation American and, honestly, I’ve seen the sacrifices my family, friends and others have made for me and the country, and I really wanted to serve this country and be a good radiologist and citizen.
In the longer-term, I hope to improve healthcare on a societal, macro level. I thought being a White House Fellow would give me the experience and training to accomplish my goals, to make healthcare more efficient, more effective and of higher quality for millions, and that’s still my goal as I get ready to finish my appointment.

Q: How does radiology figure into these objectives, for yourself and the larger debates surrounding healthcare?

Basu: I really hope this fellowship inspires more radiologists to take a seat at the table, to be involved not just in matters of radiology but in healthcare and the nation at large, whether that means serving on a community’s school board or working at the local, national or international levels.

I’ve tried to give a high level of visibility to radiology and to the very important role radiologists play in delivering healthcare. Many leaders and policymakers I meet with have never met a radiologist and certainly don’t have any on their staffs. So, without pushing any agenda, I think I have had an indirect impact in trying to show some thinHealthcare has become as much a matter of politics as medicine in the U.S., leading many physicians to fear that determinations about the fate of their specialties may lie entirely outside of their control. For the first time, though, the White House Fellows program, a non-partisan post that plucks mid-level experts to diffuse their thoughts into the highest levels of government and groom them for national leadership, has a radiologist in the mix.

Q: As a radiologist, what are your goals in working with the federal government?

Basu: I'm a first-generation American and, honestly, I've seen the sacrifices my family, friends and others have made for me and the country, and I really wanted to serve this country and be a good radiologist and citizen.

In the longer-term, I hope to improve healthcare on a societal, macro level. I thought being a White House Fellow would give me the experience and training to accomplish my goals, to make healthcare more efficient, more effective and of higher quality for millions, and that's still my goal as I get ready to finish my appointment.

Q: How does radiology figure into these objectives, for yourself and the larger debates surrounding healthcare?

Basu: I really hope this fellowship inspires more radiologists to take a seat at the table, to be involved not just in matters of radiology but in healthcare and the nation at large, whether that means serving on a community's school board or working at the local, national or international levels.

I've tried to give a high level of visibility to radiology and to the very important role radiologists play in delivering healthcare. Many leaders and policymakers I meet with have never met a radiologist and certainly don't have any on their staffs. So, without pushing any agenda, I think I have had an indirect impact in trying to show some things about radiology that may help healthcare and mitigate potential misperceptions.

Q: Could you provide an example of policy discussions you have worked on and how your medical training has come into play?

Basu: Because many of these meetings are higher level and include multiple agencies covering anything from healthcare overhauls to international trade, what comes across my desk oftentimes is quite broad.