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Former CMS Administrator Delivers NHS Values Based Lecture

March 5, 2020 – An administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration called for a morality-based campaign to improve health and health care for all people during a Georgetown lecture yesterday.

Dr. Donald Berwick stands at a computer and microphone in front of a slide that includes his name and the title of his talk.
Dr. Donald Berwick delivers the 2020 Values Based Lecture of the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

Dr. Donald Berwick, also cofounder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and a visiting distinguished professor in the Department of Health Systems Administration at the School of Nursing & Health Studies (NHS), delivered the keynote address for the school’s annual Values Based Lecture in the Research Building Auditorium.

“I feel deeply honored to be associated with Georgetown and this school,” he said.

Berwick, who has spent four decades of his career focusing on improving quality in the health care sector, grounded his recommendations in lessons from literature and philosophy. He denounced selfishness, racism-based policies and structures in criminal justice, ignoring vulnerable individuals in the United States, “cruelty [to immigrants] at our southern border,” and abandoning “a planet that’s on the brink of disaster.” 

Seven-Part Plan

“Quality and mercy” go hand in hand, according to Berwick, who offered that “intentional harm cannot be ignored.” Quality is unachievable without compassion, inclusivity, and justice. Supporting the common good is a collective duty. “It is not enough to bear witness,” Berwick shared, “we must act.”

“The moral determinants of health mean exactly the values we decide are going to be the foundation” of aims and policies, he said.

The well-known physician’s recommendations, labeled a “Campaign for Morality,” include the United States ratifying “major human rights treaties,” making “health care unequivocally a human right in our nation,” addressing climate change through U.S. leadership, a “radical reform” of the criminal justice system, ending “policies of exclusion and [achieving] compassionate immigration reform,” and stopping “hunger and homelessness” in the United States.

And the seventh: “[Restoring] order, dignity, and equity to our democratic institutions, and [assuring] the right of every single person’s vote to count equally.”

To the audience, Berwick advised speaking out, voting, writing letters and opinion pieces, and working to create change.

Annual Event

The annual event is planned by the school’s Committee on Mission and Values. This year it was cohosted by the committee and the Department of Health Systems Administration.

Dr. Christopher King, department chair, introduced Berwick. “I come to you thrilled this afternoon to introduce our speaker,” noting a list of many achievements could go on for days. This is “our time to take a pause from the daily grind . . . and to renew our spirit,” King said.

Dr. Laura Anderko, committee co-chair, spoke about the school’s values and welcomed the audience, including distinguished attendees Maria Gomez (NHS’77), founder, president, and CEO of Mary’s Center and a visiting distinguished professor at NHS, Dr. Patricia Grady (NHS’66), director emerita of the National Institute for Nursing Research and senior advisor for nursing and a visiting distinguished professor at NHS, and Dr. Beverly Malone (H’16), CEO of the National League for Nursing and an IHI board member.

health equity
Racial Justice