HARVEY V. FINEBERG
Good afternoon, everyone. It is a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to welcome you to the 2011 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Lecture here at the Institute of Medicine.
This lecture series was established in 1988 through the generosity of the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation. Each year we have selected a topic, a speaker, and sometimes a group to discuss a timely issue in health and health care.
Tonight, we have a great privilege to hear from the Secretary of Health and Human Services and from a very eminent panel around the issue of “New Frontiers in Patient Safety.” I want to mention that this program is available on Twitter, with a specific hashtag called “RosenthalLecture.” That’s all one word, capital “R,” capital “L,” in case any of you would like to comment in real time. But please, do not be distracted from the program, as we expect and hope for your attention during the conversation.
The topic of “Patient Safety” is one, of course, that we have been deeply engaged in as an organization for many years. Just last month, the Obama administration launched a new effort called “Partnership for Patients: Better Care, Lower Costs.” And this initiative is designed as a public-private partnership to improve the quality, safety, and affordability of health care. It focuses specifically to reduce health-acquired infections and health care institution–acquired infections and to reduce re-admissions to hospitals within 30 days.
I am so pleased that we are able tonight to hear from the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on this issue. Secretary Sebelius is no newcomer to either the topic of health safety or health care, more broadly. She served as the Insurance Commissioner for Kansas for a period of 8 years, before serving as the Governor of Kansas,
in which role she was already a key advocate for health reform at the state level. I think this falls under the category of “be careful what you ask for,” because today, the Secretary is clearly in the center of the implementation of the reform in the Affordable Care Act of the Obama administration.
Recently, the New York Times did an assessment of the rollout, reaction, and results in the early phase of work on implementing health care reform. The only unit to receive from the Times a grade of “A” was that of the federal activity to implement health reform. I can assure you that the Secretary is an indefatigable leader. I can tell you that from personal experience of just last week, watching the Secretary in Moscow lead the American delegation in a very important set of discussions with leaders from around the world on the broad problem of preventing and reducing non-communicable diseases.
I also understand that the Secretary departed immediately from Moscow and then went to New Orleans for the New Orleans Jazz Festival. If that is not correct, I will stand to be corrected. I, however, did not get to go to New Orleans as I was stuck still in Moscow for yet another day. And still I have to say, as one who was in the audience, so admiring of the clarity, the forcefulness, and the sensitivity with which the Secretary delivered very important messages to that world community.
I know that we will tonight experience similarly enlightening and stimulating comments from our Secretary of Health and Human Services. Please join me in welcoming The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius.