Vol. 12 No. 5 - December, 2009


Employees, longterm and new, reflect on their experiences as members of the Commonwealth Medicine team

Commonwealth Medicine is a vast and varied division, with responsibilities ranging from health care policy analysis to newborn screening. Through careful planning, forward thinking and a bit of serendipity, Commonwealth Medicine has become the multifaceted gem that it is today. We asked a handful of employees—some new to Commonwealth Medicine and some who have been with the division since its inception more than 10 years ago—to reflect on how their work fits into the larger context of public service. A common sentiment emerged—pride at making a difference, be it in lives, policies or programs.

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Elizabeth Gilgun, Senior Business Development Consultant, Public Sector Partners

I started working for Commonwealth Medicine in 1999 with Disability Evaluation Services and have been with Public Sector Partners (PSP) for the last three years. I am currently working on the MassHealth Customer Service Best Practices Model Development Initiative, working with CWM, PSP, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and consultant resources to identify and evaluate nation-wide best practices in managing member and provider services for Medicaid program operations.

Working with colleagues who are committed to the mission of CWM and UMass Medical School is very meaningful. The successful implementation of the Community Case Management program stands out as particularly memorable milestone to me because of the broad scope of clinical and operational requirements developed and implemented within a relatively short timeline. The commitment and dedication of both the CWM and PSP leadership and staff to provide quality, mission driven programs has remained constant throughout my ten years of working here.

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Richard Keith, Director-Financial Compliance, Center for Health Care Financing

I have been with the Center for Health Care Financing since 1996 and am one of the original founders. The growth of Commonwealth Medicine has been a constant—seeing and being a part of this remarkable growth in the Center for Health Care Financing from the original seven employees to where it is today has been remarkable. I’m currently working on auditing MassHealth providers to ensure that payments were made in accordance with state and federal regulations. By reducing overpayments to providers, we are lowering the net cost of providing health care benefits.

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Amy Shedd, Project Coordinator, Office of Program Development & Enterprise Project Management Office

I joined Commonwealth Medicine in 1998 as a Disability Assistant in the Disability Evaluation Services (DES) Department. Currently, I participate in new program development and implementation activities, and function as a project leader on small projects. Being part of a team that includes people of varying talents and interests who are more than willing to share their abilities and work together towards a common goal is a very meaningful part of my experience.

Working for DES was a real eye opener for me. The first applicant I spoke to was scared, frustrated and upset, but as I walked her through the process, she began to relax and understand what needed to be done. It reinforced the understanding that what we do makes a difference. Any of us could end up in that woman’s shoes at any time. It is gratifying to know that there are people out there to help, and it is even better to know that I am one of those people.

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Charles P. Sweet, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the Office of Program Development-Enterprise Project Management Office and associate professor of family medicine & community health

I work with the Office of Program Development and the leadership and staff of Commonwealth Medicine service programs to explore new program options and improve current services. Since I began at CWM in 1998 in the department then known as Drug Utilization Review (and now known as Clinical Pharmacy Services or CPS), providing meticulous customer service while projecting the ethical standards that befit professionals from a public service medical school has been a constant.

In 2002 during the previous Massachusetts budget crisis, the team from CPS and the leadership from MassHealth Clinical Affairs worked tirelessly to roll out the MassHealth Drug List, one of the first Medicaid preferred drug lists in the country. We gained control of the use of brand name drugs when a generic was available. We also promoted the use of a preferred drug in each drug class base upon not just price but comparable clinical efficacy. We conducted workgroups with community providers to gain advice on the most controversial decisions. As a result of hard work and cooperation we saved the Commonwealth $144 million out of a $1 billion pharmacy budget. The alternative would have been restrictions on MassHealth enrollment.

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Maura Armstrong, Market Research Coordinator for Public Sector Partners, MedMetrics Health Partners, Commonwealth Medicine Marketing Analytics

I am responsible for investigating current events in the health care market place and providing analysis of state governments and health care companies, knowledge that allows me to explore new business opportunities for Public Sector Partners, MedMetrics Health Partners and departments within Commonwealth Medicine. As a member of many teams, I also work on projects across the enterprise such as proposal management, gathering strategic target market informationand investigating operational processes.

Before I was hired in 2007, I read about the programs at Commonwealth Medicine and knew that this was an organization that would offer me an array of opportunities in an environment that promotes a mission I believe in. It’s gratifying to know that what we do at Commonwealth Medicine helps enhance health care in our current environment, and more importantly, will enhance health care delivery for the future. Particularly gratifying is being a part of the cross-enterprise teams—each person involved brings a unique point of view and that’s why they’re so successful. It is rewarding to see an organization as large and complex as ours growing and working collaboratively on projects with one goal in mind.

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Katharine London, Principal Associate, Center for Health Law and Economics

I provide analysis, research and advice to clients in the areas of health care financing, cost containment and quality improvement. Currently, clients include several Massachusetts state agencies, two private foundations and an out-of-state agency. I came to Commonwealth Medicine because it provided me an opportunity to continue working on improving the health care system, particularly for vulnerable populations. I was particularly excited about joining the Center for Health Law and Economics (CHLE) because of the staff’s extraordinary depth of knowledge and experience.

The most meaningful part of my job is working on projects that move us closer to building a health care system that provides high quality, affordable health care to all. Although I’ve been with Commonwealth Medicine for less than a year, I already can see the widespread impact that the work we do has on health care. I’ve been involved in a project to evaluate the effect of the national health reform bills on Massachusetts health reform and it is exciting to think that our work could influence the provisions included in the final bill.

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Jorge Sanchez, MEd, Senior Client Services Manager, Office of Massachusetts Client Relations

I broker and support client relationship strategies and partnerships with Massachusetts clients and formulate and oversee implementation of policies and procedures for the execution of Interagency Service Agreements (ISAs) and University funded agreements. I was drawn to Commonwealth Medicine because it fits with the evolution of my career, which has included academic, hospital-based, university-based, community-based and state governmental work. Since taking this position earlier this year, I’m gratified to be a part of a collaborative, mutually beneficial process, which advances both the academic and health and human services goals of Commonwealth Medicine and our partnering agencies. I also enjoy working closely with esteemed colleagues and experts across the enterprise who are committed, respectful and supportive of each other. The satisfaction of our clients is also very gratifying.

We’re in the midst of concluding a Massachusetts Client Satisfaction Survey. As my first major Commonwealth Medicine project, I’m sure that it will be memorable to me in that the results will help inform and prioritize future client relations activities.

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Judith Steinberg, Senior Director of Clinical Affairs, Center for Health Policy and Research and Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Commonwealth Medicine

Since 2008, I’ve been working with the Chief Medical Officer to ensure high clinical standards for the services we deliver to vulnerable populations and to foster quality improvement and program evaluation activities. This work is very meaningful to me.

I also provide a clinical perspective to the work we do within the Center for Health Policy and Research (CHPR) and forge collaborations with Medical School faculty and staff. I was attracted to Commonwealth Medicine because their institutional mission is very similar to my personal mission. Also, working for Commonwealth Medicine afforded me the opportunity to have a larger impact on the health care of vulnerable populations than I could have had in my former position as medical director of a community health center. For example, I had the opportunity to take the lead on UMMS efforts toward implementing elements of the Massachusetts Patient Centered Medical Home Initiative. I believe this initiative will have a far reaching, positive impact on the way health care is delivered and financed.