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Burke: Preserve teaching hospitals' vital role in a new era of health care

March 22, 2013

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The Class of 2015 profiles the women and men whojoined the AHA board thisyear.

AHA board member Thomas Burke, M.D., wants to ensure that America's teaching hospitals continue to serve as one of the nation's vital health care resources.

'In our rush to define cost-efficient systems and strategies for providing broader [health care] access to people, I don't want us to lose the rich research and development components that exist within our health care system,' says Burke, who is the executive vice president and physician-in-chief at The University of Texas M.D.

Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. 'Otherwise, we arejust building a system that delivers what we have today, and we never strive to be better outside of afinancialperformance model or the traditional metrics.' Teaching hospitals reach into the lives of millions of people with lifesaving treatments and shape the future of medicine by providing clinical research in new procedures, technology, treatments and medication. They also provide the lion's share of specialty services and train a large portion of the health care workforce.

Burke understands as well as anyone how important it is for teaching hospitals to continue to play a critical role in a revamped health care delivery system. At The University of Texas M.D. Anderson
Cancer Center, he is responsible for oversight and strategic planning for patient care delivery throughout the hospital, clinics and outreach programs. He also leads a team of researchers from M.D. Anderson's Institute for Cancer Care Innovation, which studies ways of eliminating inefficiencies, reducing costs and quantifying quality care.

'We have to provide access to people in a much broader way, but we have to continue to facilitate the development of new discoveries and new [research] opportunities that get embedded in those systems as we go forward,' Burke says.

He believes that his organization's cornmitment to issues like clinical excellence, improving patient outcomes through researchdriven care and enhancing patient services is being replicated at the national level through the work of the AHA's Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET). He says initiatives like HRET's
Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence and boarddirected projects like those coming out of the AHA's Committee on Performance Improvement (CPI)— Burke is a committee member - are helping AHA's members navigate a changing health care landscape.

One example: Burke says CPI is looking at the sweeping demographic changes that are shaping tomorrow's workforce. Distinct generations comprise the nation's health care workforce: soon-to-be retiring 'Baby Boomers,' 'Generation Xers' and the so-called 'Mil­
lennials' work side-by-side with unique strengths, expectations, motivations, values and work styles.

With much of the most skilled workforce
'within striking range of retirement,' Burke says a key question is how to impart their knowledge and expertise to the younger generation, while also taking advantage of younger workers' creativity and fresh ideas. 'We need to look at the way generations process information ... and adapt to changes in the way we will be delivering information, tracking patients and engaging people,' he says.

Burke's first exposure to AHA governance came as an alternate delegate to the AHA's regional policy board (RPB 7) from 2007 to 2009. He then served as an RPB 7 member from 2010 to 2012.

He views his colleagues on the AHA board as a 'terrific collection of people who have great ideas and have accomplished a lot already, and who are committed to moving the agenda forward in a positive way for the country.' He says this is a critical time for America's health care. 'We have an opportunity to reconfigure our health care delivery, and the people who serve on the AHAboard want to get it done.'