Health policy scholarship winner says advocating for plastic surgery, patients is a job requirement

Mike Stokes
08/29/2013 at 4:00PM

The 2013 ASPS/ACS Health Policy and Management Scholarship recipient, C. Bob Basu, MD, MPH, Houston (pictured at right), says his interest in health policy began while an undergraduate at Princeton University during another time of great turmoil in health care due to the Clinton administration's efforts for health care reform. Dr. Basu's full-blown passion for plastic surgery advocacy began after he was appointed by ASPS to represent the specialty at the American Medical Association where today, he serves on the Surgical Caucus Executive Committee. 

"Heath policy is the foundation upon which both government and commercial payers base value to patient care," Dr. Basu says. "Whether you consider your practice to be reconstructive or cosmetic, all of us have to advocate for our patients to make sure that their access to the best available care is not compromised by non-plastic surgeons and non-physician providers."

As the recipient of the 2013 Executive Leadership Program in Health Policy and Management Scholarship awarded by ASPS and the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Basu spent a week immersed in health policy discussion and training in Brandeis University's Leadership Program in Health Policy and Management held June 9-15 in Waltham, Mass. The scholarship provided $8,000 to covered tuition, travel, housing and subsistence costs.

Dr. Basu describes the curriculum as a cross between a leadership training "boot camp" and a mini executive MBA program. The coursework featured a mix of didactic lectures and small group exercises with surgeons from a variety of specialties. He was the only plastic surgeon in the program and one of the few in private practice.

"In the health policy arena, other surgeons are surprised to see plastic surgeons involved," Dr. Basu says. "It's easy for other physicians to dismiss plastic surgery as purely cosmetic, but a part of advocating for our specialty is to inform others that a majority of ASPS members do a mix of both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery - they go hand in hand.

Furthermore, given the nature of cosmetic surgery, we as a specialty have a granular understanding of cost and quality because we practice in a truly free and open marketplace on a daily basis.

"We must understand the rapidly changing health-care environment to be able to compete in the new ecosystem that will be the basis of health care for years to come," he adds. "The contributions of plastic surgeons to patient care must never be overshadowed."

While maintaining a robust private practice, Dr. Basu's penchant for health policy has led to his current role as chair of the ASPS Patient Safety Committee.  He also represents the interests of his specialty while serving on the PlastyPAC Board of Governors, ASPS Government Affairs Committee - and as chair of the YPS Steering Committee.

"As a plastic surgeon, I will be spending the greater part of my future medical career in a system that is placing more risk on physicians and demanding a greater accountability for outcomes, while lowering the cost of care," he adds. "We must work to proactively shape this system rather than have the system shape and dictate the care we provide our patients."

In addition to honing his skills as an advocate for patients and the specialty, Dr. Basu says his secondary objective for participating in the Health Policy and Management program was to enhance his effectiveness as a leader and operational manager. He oversees several providers in multiple office locations, including two accredited surgical centers for a "virtual group" private practice model that uses technology to improve supply-chain management - a new paradigm that applies the Lean Six Sigma concept for improving business efficiency and effectiveness to plastic surgery.

"I'm interested in enhancing my business acumen as an operational manager to be a more effective committee member and leader on behalf of plastic surgery," Dr. Basu says. "We can always find ways to improve member engagement, build consensus, develop new initiatives and enhance meeting efficiency.

"The program also provided me with a greater understanding of good financial practices and an opportunity to hone my business skills," he adds. 

Dr. Basu says he would highly recommend the program to fellow plastic surgeons interested in learning more about health policy. 

"It was a great way to step back and gain a 30,000-foot view of my practice, the specialty of plastic surgery and of health care in general," he says. "Not only did I learn a great deal, but it was a lot of fun. I'm thankful to ASPS for its support and encouragement. I look forward to putting what I learned to good use as a better advocate for our specialty and patients."
For more information on the program, visit programs/index.html.