Before Donald Berwick is sworn in as CMS administrator, he’ll likely have to extricate himself from a long list of posts at not-for-profit-organizations, committees and boards. President Barack Obama’s July 7 recess appointment of Berwick has prompted speculation about the future of the agency and Berwick’s role in implementing the provisions of the health reform law.
Berwick likely to leave many posts he holds
But for now, one of the biggest tasks on Berwick’s to-do list is undoubtedly figuring out the best way to tie up loose ends and transition away from his current posts. And he’ll need to do it quickly, said Reid Cherlin, a White House spokesman. “We don’t have a final word right now, but we expect him to start very soon, and that’s in the order of days, not weeks,” he said.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Cambridge, Mass.-based not-for-profit healthcare quality organization that Berwick co-founded, has named Maureen Bisognano to succeed him as president and CEO. Bisognano will assume her new post as soon as Berwick is sworn in as head of the CMS, an IHI spokeswoman said. In a written statement, Berwick called his exit bittersweet, but he also expressed faith in Bisognano’s ability to lead the IHI in his absence.
Berwick, 63, also holds leadership and executive board posts at many other organizations. He serves on the board of directors of Physicians for Human Rights, a not-for-profit organization.
“Dr. Berwick will need to resign his post on the board immediately on his appointment to a U.S. government position,” Frank Donaghue, Physicians for Human Rights’ CEO, said in an e-mail. Donahue said the organization is honored by Berwick’s new position and will begin nominating a new board member soon.
Berwick is also a founding member of the Lucian Leape Institute, a strategic think tank within the Boston-based National Patient Safety Foundation. Diane Pinakiewicz, president of both the foundation and the institute, said she was delighted that Berwick will be at the helm of the CMS. She also wistfully speculated that Berwick could perhaps remain at the Lucian Leape Institute.
“We’d love to have him stay, but we’ll have to see,” she said. “He’s certainly always welcome.”
And Berwick, a pediatrician, is also an adjunct staff member in pediatrics at 396-bed Children’s Hospital Boston, and has been part of the nonclinical consulting staff at 907-bed Massachusetts General Hospital since 1987, a hospital spokeswoman said. In addition, he is a clinical professor of pediatrics and healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School and a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health.
“He’s really been able to bring together two threads—medicine and policy—to his work,” said Arnold Epstein, chair and professor in the Health Policy and Management Department at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Berwick may also be gearing up for a pretty dramatic pay cut. His total compensation for 2008 totaled $2,356,352, including bonuses, incentives and nontaxable benefits, according to the IHI’s most recent available Internal Revenue Service Form 990. In sharp contrast, Berwick’s yearly salary as CMS administrator will be $165,300, a spokesman said.
“I welcome the opportunity to lead CMS for many reasons, but one above all others: because it offers the chance to help extend the effort to improve America’s healthcare system—the very vision that led to the founding of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement—to a level I would not have thought possible even a few years ago,” Berwick said in a written statement.
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