Family and Community Physician Serves as Health Policy Liaison in Nation's Capitol
Published January 2011
January 2011 marks a homecoming for Family and Community Medicine’s Barbara Tobias, MD.
But the UC alumna, clinician and professor’s year away was well spent learning about how healthy policy can impact the health and quality of care provided to all citizens.
Tobias was selected to participate in a year-long program in Washington, D.C., as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy fellow. She was one of 10 mid-career faculty selected from academic health centers across the country to learn first-hand about health policy at the federal level.
She is returning to Cincinnati and the university this month.
"It was a fascinating experience,” Tobias says. "It was quite a historical time to be in D.C., and I was able to participate in a meaningful way.”
During Tobias’ fellowship, she worked in the office of the Secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS) and, among other projects, worked with first lady Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move” initiative, fighting childhood obesity.
"The first three months of orientation were a whirlwind of meetings, lectures and forums where we were briefed by those directly involved with federal health care policy—from think tanks to legislators and economists to research and advocacy groups,” she says. "I was privileged to join the office of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at HHS last January and reported directly to her counselors.”
Tobias says she worked on many projects including initiatives surrounding Medicare and Medicaid and became the HHS point person for "Let’s Move” as well as the chair of the healthy pregnancy task forces, charged with the task of identifying clinical and research gaps to prevent obesity and diabetes in pregnancy.
Additionally, she participated in early discussions on accountable care organizations— organizations of primary care providers and other services designed to increase quality and reduce health care costs for a defined patient population.
"There is a lot of work being put into motion with the goals of improving quality, decreasing costs and increasing access to care as well as educating patients,” she says.
Now, Tobias is taking what she learned and applying it locally.
She says she hopes to help in making Cincinnati an official "Let’s Move” city and to work with several of UC’s ongoing initiatives—the Health Improvement Collaborative and the Patient-Centered Medical Home pilot—to improve the quality of care for patients through research, curriculum changes and outreach.
"I am coming away from this experience very impressed and inspired by my RWJ colleagues and those with whom I’ve worked,” she says. "I’ve also learned that our government is truly accessible and that there’s a place at the table for everyone. This is a pivotal time for health care reform in our country and its been a privilege to be present. Many dedicated people from private and public sectors are working hard to improve our nation’s health care system.
"Cincinnati has great potential to be a national leader in innovative health care delivery. Understanding and appreciating what is happening nationally enhances my patient care and teaching efforts and will help in being responsive on a local level. We need to make sure our medical students are prepared to participate in health care policy issues in this larger context.”
Other Robert Wood Johnson Appointments/Awards From UC:
Stephanie Dunlap, DO, director of UC Health’s heart failure program and Heart Failure Fellowship director, was appointed UC Health University Hospital project leader to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in August. In her position, Dunlap is leading the hospital’s quality initiative to reduce readmissions for major illnesses, including heart failure.
Otolaryngology resident Gordon Sun, MD, has been selected as one of the 27 members of the 2011–13 class of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars. Scholars conduct research on a wide range of health challenges and receive training in leadership skills and community-based, participatory research. Starting in July 2011, Sun will spend two years at the University of Michigan comparing head and neck cancer outcomes between U.S. veteran and non-veteran populations in order to identify and address potential risk factors contributing to decreased survival and higher morbidity rates among both groups.
Since last spring, Robert Graham, MD, of the family and community medicine department, has been serving as director of the Cincinnati Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) initiative by the Health Improvement Collaborative (HIC) of Greater Cincinnati. Graham has led the AF4Q’s patient-centered medical home project and now focuses on the multi-faceted health reform effort led by the HIC in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
More About Tobias:
Barbara Tobias, MD, is not only a dedicated family physician and faculty member at UC but is also a proud Cincinnatian.
After attending Cornell University in New York and majoring in Asian studies, Tobias returned to her hometown and attended the UC College of Medicine, where she completed her medical degree in 1987.
"I grew up and continue to live in Wyoming with my husband Tom,” she says, adding that they have two children, Ben and Ann, who both attend George Washington University in D.C. "I have always loved Cincinnati and what it has to offer, including the sense of community, life-long friendships, the thriving arts community and … Graeter’s ice cream.”