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"Do No Harm" Speaker Tells University of Nevada Medical Grads

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Susan Dentzer is senior policy advisor at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy focused on healthcare. On Friday, she delivered the commencement address to graduates of the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno. She also stopped by KUNR to share her message for this latest crop of doctors, and it comes down to three key goals: improving health, improving healthcare, and lowering treatment costs. 

Dentzer is a renowned health policy expert and an analyst for the PBS NewsHour. In this conversation, she addresses several challenging realities that new doctors will face as they enter the field, as well as systemic problems that are weighing down America's healthcare system.

"We desperately need to make it more efficient," Dentzer explains "Anyone who has had serious illness will recognize the feeling of being shuttled around the healthcare system between a hospital and a nursing home. The coordination isn't very good."

Along with inefficiencies, Dentzer points to ongoing safety concerns as "wrong site" or "wrong person" surgeries continue to occur. 

"That means somebody goes into the hospital to get, say, a brain operation, and instead of the left brain being operated on, the right brain is operated on," she says. "Or, even worse, it's the wrong person."

Dentzer also sheds light on unnecessary procedures that many specialists perform routinely, which drive up costs for individual patients as well as the system as a whole.

Ultimately, she advises the latest class of graduates from the University of Nevada School of Medicine to do no financial harm.

"You're going to be part of this system," she says. "Don't do financial harm to your patients by recommending that they get things they don't need [and] don't do harm to our country by doing things we know are going to drive up our healthcare spending and make it truly unsustainable."

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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