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. Delving deeper, though, many issues do come to my attention, including conversations on payment reform, research dollars that go into healthcare and radiology and regulatory and reimbursement policies. Some of my work has looked at innovations in the field, trade in medical technology (MRI and CT systems) or how efficiency and cost play into U.S. healthcare and the economy.

Q: What do your experiences in radiology and government indicate to you about the future of radiology?

Basu: I think radiology will have a major role to play going forward in making healthcare more efficient. In terms of cost, one way I think radiology will be a leader is the telemedicine movement. And I believe radiology will help move healthcare through the 21st century by highlighting the important role medical technology and innovation play in literally saving lives—changing healthcare outcomes and increasing access. Finally, the biggest thing I think radiology will do is increase quality. The type of care radiologists are able to deliver will lead to positive changes in medicine, whether it's diagnosing cancers at earlier stages and saving lives and costs downstream, or introducing new minimally invasive radiologic therapies.  

We don't want to have tunnel vision in our profession; we need people with our expertise to weigh in on public issues. I really feel strongly that radiologists are some of the most highly motivated and most valuable, not just physicians, but citizens. So I really hope they increase their participation in these processes, whether it's at the local, state or national levels. gs 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. Delving deeper, though, many issues do come to my attention, including conversations on payment reform, research dollars that go into healthcare and radiology and regulatory and reimbursement policies. Some of my work has looked at innovations in the field, trade in medical technology (MRI and CT systems) or how efficiency and cost play into U.S. healthcare and the economy.

Q: What do your experiences in radiology and government indicate to you about the future of radiology?

Basu: I think radiology will have a major role to play going forward in making healthcare more efficient. In terms of cost, one way I think radiology will be a leader is the telemedicine movement. And I believe radiology will help move healthcare through the 21st century by highlighting the important role medical technology and innovation play in literally saving lives—changing healthcare outcomes and increasing access. Finally, the biggest thing I think radiology will do is increase quality. The type of care radiologists are able to deliver will lead to positive changes in medicine, whether it’s diagnosing cancers at earlier stages and saving lives and costs downstream, or introducing new minimally invasive radiologic therapies.  

We don’t want to have tunnel vision in our profession; we need people with our expertise to weigh in on public issues. I really feel strongly that radiologists are some of the most highly motivated and most valuable, not just physicians, but citizens. So I really hope they increase their participation in these processes, whether it’s at the local, state or national levels.