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Q&A with Brian Kavanagh ASTRO president

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | September 19, 2017
Rad Oncology Radiation Therapy
Brian Kavanagh
From the September 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

ASTRO’s annual meeting is scheduled for Sept. 24-27 at the San Diego Convention Center. In advance of the show, HealthCare Business News spoke with ASTRO President Dr. Brian Kavanagh.

HCB News: What inspired you to get involved in health care?
Brian Kavanagh: My dad was my role model. He was a surgeon and served in a real-life MASH unit in Korea before starting a civilian practice in the days of house calls and endless workdays. But he never complained and was always grateful for the chance to help others who were less fortunate.

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HCB News: What attracted you to ASTRO?
BK: Paul Starr’s book, "The Social Transformation of American Medicine" was an eye-opener to the continuing evolution of medicine as a sovereign profession. By getting involved with my specialty’s society, I thought that in some small way I might feel engaged in that process.

I am grateful to my many mentors: Mike Steinberg, Najeeb Mohideen and others taught me a lot about health policy. Tim Williams and Colleen Lawton, among others, set outstanding examples with their integrity and character.

HCB News: What initiatives are you championing as president?
BK: The ASTRO Accreditation Program for Excellence (APEx), which promotes high-quality care by implementing a number of clinical standards, is gaining momentum. We hope eventually to enroll more than 1,000 practices, and we already have about 200 in the pipeline.

I am also excited about ASTRO’s radiosurgery registry project in partnership with the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. We have already collected data prospectively on more than 2,200 patients, with about 200 more added each month, so we will have a large treasure trove of clinical observations that can reveal the key components of quality radiosurgical care.

HCB News: What are the biggest challenges facing your members today?
BK: As for other medical specialties, there is uncertainty in how we can continue to provide the best possible patient care given the economic stressors impacting health care. Physicians need to sustain full-throated advocacy for our patients with policymakers. There have been many improvements in outcomes for cancer patients over the last few decades that depend on resource availability. To keep up the pace of progress, we need continued support for research that will advance the frontiers of what clinicians can accomplish.

HCB News: What are the biggest opportunities?
BK: The emerging developments in health policy, which include changes in the federal and private insurance programs, give us a chance to modernize our way of thinking and morph our field into a leader in value-driven practices. Over the past several years, we have been closely engaged with federal agencies to help design an alternative payment model that will move us forward beyond the antiquated fee-for-service construct.

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