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Fuqua develops health policy council

Although education is often confined to understanding concepts in the classroom, a new program in the Health Sector Management Program at the Fuqua School of Business is bringing real-life issues in the health sector to students in an effort to apply classroom theory to practical problems facing business in health care.

The Health Sector Advisory Council, which will meet twice a year, has members ranging from health policy experts to CEOs of major health care and pharmaceutical companies, as well as students in the Health Sector Management Program at Fuqua. Each member will provide input from their particular field and will contribute to the council's repository of ideas, where health-related theories are addressed and developed, and where projects and research are set in motion.

Kevin Schulman, professor of general internal medicine and director of the Health Sector Management Program, envisions HSAC as an asset to reinvigorate the Health Management Program and to bring together divergent issues in the marketplace.

"We have an enormous opportunity now to make sure academics are serving marketplace needs and to develop collaborative research projects that will make a difference in the health sector part of the economy," Schulman said.

The council will contribute to the evolution of curriculum in the Health Management Program by building off the experience in the marketplace. With corporate representatives such as Council Chair George Abercrombie, who is president and CEO of Hoffmann-La Roche Pharmaceuticals, and Andrea Gelzer, vice president for health policy at CIGNA Healthcare, students will examine current issues of health care economics.

Jeff Moe, director of Health Sector Emerging Issues, serves as a liaison to external health care entities on the council. "We would like corporations to be involved with Duke because they are living out in a day-to-day basis the delivery of health care that we are trying to teach our students," Moe said. "We want [the corporations] to be coming back to us with the issues they are facing... to make sure our theory based teaching is grounded in experience."

Stephen Morales, the second-year student representative on the council, emphasized the research opportunities made available through the council to students in the Health Sector Management Program. "There is a round table [during the meeting] where you get the greatest interaction between a guy who is in pharmaceuticals, a guy who runs fifteen hospitals and a guy who develops medical devices, all talking about how we can actually innovate in the industry," Morales said.

Students are currently working on a study in disease management, and research is underway in developing ways to lower drug costs to the consumer.

The HSAC, at least for now, will limit itself to theory and forego health policy suggestions, which the Sanford Institute of Public Policy's Health Policy Certificate Program is more likely to cover. "The [HSAC] will be more of a consultative body helping to bring resources together," Schulman said. "Our mission for Fuqua is to get at business and health care as opposed to policy outcomes, since we're already tackling them elsewhere at Duke."

With the current problems facing business in health care, Schulman emphasized the potential of HSAC. "The more opportunities we have to make sure that we're doing research on issues that truly matter to leaders in health care today, the more relevant our research will be."

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