Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Julie Rosen

USA • Executive Director, Kenneth B. Schwartz Center, Massachusetts General Hospital

MMHS '89

Back Together Where They Belong: Compassion and Medicine

The work of Julie Rosen, MMHS '89, focuses on the definition of good care

Fall 2010

When Julie Rosen, MMHS '89, was a high school senior, she was accepted to Duke University and Tufts University--both great schools. Her high school internship with a Massachusetts legislator who became a lifelong mentor made her college choice simple.

She enrolled at Tufts and continued her internship for two years at the State House with Sen. William Saltonstall. "Bill modeled the importance of listening to people and understanding issues from different points of view before making a decision," Rosen says. "He taught me about the value of relationships through his ability to make friends and lasting impressions wherever he went." Sen. Saltonstall was the first of several mentors who influenced her development as a professional. Rosen is currently the executive director of the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Advocacy, health care and politics always have been among Rosen's passions. While in college, she took two semesters off to pursue internships, including a stint working for Ralph Nader on his consumer agenda ("when everyone loved him," she says). After graduation, she worked on a number of political campaigns in Chicago but found her true calling in representing health care organizations at the federal, state and city levels. Eventually she recognized that, to move ahead in her career, she would need a graduate degree. Stuart Altman, a family friend, told her about the Heller School. Soon after, she applied, enrolled and adopted Altman as her next mentor. "Stuart is brilliant, kind, accessible, connected and incredibly funny. I learned and continue to learn about the intersection of health care policy and politics from him,"says Rosen.

"I found my home at the Heller School," she adds. "The atmosphere was intellectually exciting, the faculty was on a first-name basis with students, and it was the kind of place where you got what you put into the experience. I loved every minute of it."

In 1996, Rosen was the director of government affairs at Tufts Health Plan where she found her third mentor, Dr. Harris Berman, chief executive officer of Tufts Health Plan. She became an assistant vice president and ran the health plan's government, media and community benefits programs. After working for more than eight years there, she came to believe that her true calling was to be at the helm of a nonprofit. That is when she made the move to the Schwartz Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Thinking back to her days at Heller, Rosen says that Professor Jon Chilingerian's class best prepared her for her role at the Schwartz Center. "It was hands-down the best class experience," she says. "He helped me learn how to navigate organizational dynamics and deal with people and how to put myself in someone else's shoes."

Putting yourself in someone else's shoes and understanding people and their experiences make up the essence of the Schwartz Center, which was established by the family and friends of the late Kenneth B. Schwartz, a young Boston attorney who lost his battle with lung cancer in 1995. Schwartz believed that the relationship between patients and caregivers was critical to health care.

He experienced incredible compassion during his illness and was grateful for the care he received. At the same time, Schwartz saw that medicine was turning into a business, and he worried that it was trending away from compassion. 

The Schwartz Center brings together health care clinicians to improve communication, enhance relationships and, ultimately, improve patient outcomes. The center organizes special discussions called Schwartz Center Rounds--educational opportunities to bring disparate parts of the hospital staff together in nonthreatening learning environments.

At the Schwartz Center, Rosen's work focuses on the definition of good care. With health care reform, she sees new challenges and opportunities. "Many now recognize the effectiveness of the Schwartz Center Rounds approach," she adds. Promoting communication and breaking down the silos that currently exist are becoming the gold standard in the medical field. Ultimately, public and private payers are recognizing that patient-centered care is the way of the future. The Joint Commission and other accrediting agencies are working now to measure clinician compliance in these areas. This is uncharted territory but gaining momentum across the United States.

To learn more about the Schwartz Center approach and read Julie Rosen's blogs, visit www.TheSchwartzCenter.org.

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