Perspectives on Physician Professionalism & Patient Care, with Dr. Richard Baron, President & CEO of the American Board of Internal Medi

This week’s interview is an expose in modern medical professionalism and perspectives on what will be required for the next era.  Our guest this week, Richard Baron, is a physician grounded in nearly three decades of direct hands-on clinical care and enlightened by his experience of participating on numerous national level workgroups such as at the National Quality Forum, the National Committee on Quality Assurance, the Center for Disease Control, The Commonwealth Fund & The Aspen Institute Health Strategy Group – as well as a couple of years at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation Center, leading initiatives in accountable care and primary care redesign.  He currently is the CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), which has had its fair share of controversy.

Richard has a deep and broad perspective on healthcare delivery.  But more than that, he’s a remarkably and refreshingly independent-minded thought leader, and a dedicated, passionate public steward for American medical professionalism.  

Dr. Baron reminds me of the many dedicated, hard working, thoughtful primary care physician leaders whom I meet regularly.  Like these high-integrity physicians, his focus is on the broader continuum of patient care – on patients & patient care, first & foremost; and then secondarily on sustaining providers.  His vision is consistent with the “quadruple aim” of better health, better care experience, better value & better support for providers.  He is an ardent champion for maintaining and elevating the standards & quality of medical care; and a vocal advocate for the critical central role of primary care in any value based healthcare system.  

Richard studied English at Harvard College, and then received his MD degree from Yale.  I’m not sure if it’s his liberal arts background that has given him the ability to tease out and integrate complex themes and narratives; but I do admire the new narrative he is attempting to construct at the ABIM.  He is currently focusing his efforts on listening to the varied voices and myriad perspectives of the ABIM’s physician constituents; and seeking to understand how to recognize, celebrate and reward both the tangible and intangible benefits of the the doctor and the doctor/patient relationship.  

He is keenly and realistically aware of the very real tensions of our times, and rather than ignore or polarize, he is seeking to balance.  Richard exposes the tension between science & service, between payment and prioritizing value-based patient care, between clinical medicine and community care.  He is clearly a defender of the scientific & technological narrative of healthcare – the ABIM’s purpose being to maintain professional knowledge and competence.  But, he is also seeking to support the integration of complementary narratives such as the importance of doctor/patient communication, continuous quality improvement, data-driven health management, and the empathetic skill and emotional work that is crucial in healing relationships.  

This interview reveals the story of an individual physician, innovator & leader – who is attempting to do what many of us are struggling to do – to infuse & sustain ourselves, our colleagues, our professions, and our institutions with humanism, humility, meaning and purpose; and to do so in an increasingly complex world that is becoming, of necessity, more corporatized, institutionalized and standardized.  

Above all else, what comes across in this dialogue is Dr. Baron’s strong sensibility that it is an incredible privilege to be of service to others – to have the gift of being able to alleviate the suffering of our patients and our communities through the practice of the art & science of medicine.  

This is a story you shouldn’t miss out on.  As always, I hope you gain as much from this interview as I have!