Chris Cassel: Accidental Doctor to Ultimate Physician Leader

September 11th, 2017 |
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Dr. Christine Cassel never set out to be a doctor but a chance encounter between a kindly navy corpsman and her unexpectedly broken leg took her down the road to medicine. Over the years she has undergone an evolution from “Accidental Doctor” to the one of the nation’s most accomplished and recognized physician leaders, after an early experience at “shared decision making.”

Currently Chris is the Planning Dean of the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, a new medical school which will start its first class in 2019. Chris’ unique approach to modernizing medical education is rooted in her fundamental belief that “medicine is moral philosophy in action” and Chris is working hard to ensure that the next generation of physicians comes from that place, armed with healthy doses of both data and humanity. A key proponent of the “let technology flourish” approach to medicine, Chris is on a mission to ensure that newly minted physicians use the latest diagnostic, preventive and personalized technological solutions to enhance the patient experience and improve outcomes across the board, but especially among the geriatric and chronically ill population base with a full recognition of the importance of the social determinants of health and the importance of rational spending.

Her path on this journey has included stints as President and CEO of the National Quality Forum, as well as President and first female CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and the ABIM Foundation. Chris was one of 20 scientists chosen by President Obama to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. And that is only a start to the list of career steps that led her to become a leading national expert in geriatric medicine, medical ethics, health policy and quality of care.

Among the programs Chris is most well-known for starting is Choosing Wisely, an effort to bring accountability and scientific validity to medical diagnosis process by ensuring the right tests are done at the right time for the right patients. Choosing Wisely is a joint initiative of the ABIM Foundation and Consumer Reports and provides a forum for over 500 medical specialty societies to define unnecessary services that are no longer supported by evidence-based best practices and to educate physicians and consumers about more appropriate alternatives. If anyone could get 500 medical specialty societies to collaborate, it is Chris.

She is also excited that her legacy will include leadership towards the passage of the Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act, a new law that will remove the onerous restrictions that limit access to hearing aids for older adults. Considering that hearing impairment leads to serious and costly medical issues including depression, social isolation and, potentially even dementia, this is an essential tool in helping the vast population of seniors live fuller, better lives.

We are grateful to AARP Market Innovation for sponsoring this episode of TechTonics. AARP’s Market Innovation team works to spark innovation in the market that will benefit the quality of life for people over 50.

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