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Why Did Our Neurosurgeon Go To Washington?

As a White House Fellow, Jeremy Hosein, MD, spent a year on the front lines of healthcare policy

Author Chris Casey | Publish Date February 6, 2020

If you thought you were hopelessly hooked on American politics, Jeremy Hosein, MD, can do you one better. Hosein, a senior neurosurgery resident at CU Anschutz, traded his hospital scrubs for a pressed suit and moved east, finding himself exactly where he wanted to be – in the trenches of U.S. healthcare policy.

Hosein was one of 14 young professionals selected to the 2018-2019 class of White House Fellows, a prestigious annual leadership development program. Although meetings with top officials – he occasionally prepared presentations for President Trump – were part of the experience, Hosein spent much of his time on the nitty-gritty work of healthcare policy.

“My primary focus for the year was working on presidential priorities on healthcare – drug pricing, surprise billing and value-based healthcare,” he said. “I also served as an advisor to Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.”

The fellows were chosen from hundreds of applicants. Each one underwent extensive, multiple interviews. Many had military backgrounds.

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Jeremy Hosein, MD (official White House photo by Keegan Barb)

President Lyndon B. Johnson established the nonpartisan program in 1964 to give promising young leaders a high-level public service experience. “What President Johnson said about this program – that a genuinely free society cannot be a spectator society – really resonated with me,” Hosein said.

Liaison to Congress

Placed in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the neurosurgeon worked on policy development and served as a liaison to Congress, delivering details of the President’s healthcare policy to lawmakers.

Hosein dove into policy related to chronic kidney disease – playing a key role in the presidential event “Advancing American Kidney Health” – as well as the innovative Medicare payment models related to “ET3,” or Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport and the Primary Cares Initiative. He also joined a panel of orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons in discussing ways to improve spine and arthritis care.

Much of his work revolved around the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Innovation Center, which was created as part of the Affordable Care Act.

‘Move the needle’

As a White House Fellow, he said, “You seek out projects in which you can move the needle in a year. My work with the (CMS) Innovation Center didn’t necessarily require congressional approval to try new models or payment plans to meet the center’s goals of increasing value and decreasing costs.”

Hosein is now back in his clinical scrubs, once again putting in long shifts at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital (UCH). In the CU School of Medicine, he credits Kevin Lillehei, MD, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, and Kerry Brega, MD, director of the Neurosurgery Residency Program, for supporting his efforts to pursue the paid fellowship.

Hosein spent his fifth year of residency in Washington, D.C., which served as his research year, allowing him to step back into the residency program without much disruption. He will finish his residency in July 2021.

‘Can help millions’

“I walked away (from the fellowship) with a richer understanding of how the policy development and implementation process works,” he said. “I gained insight into how you can actually help people by scaling up programs. More than just helping one person, you can help millions.”

Meeting leaders on the Hill

Besides getting a handle on federal investments in healthcare innovation, Jeremy Hosein, MD, took away a better understanding of what it takes to reach the highest levels of public service. Sharing stories of their journeys to Washington, D.C., were many recognizable leaders on Capitol Hill, including Chief Justice John Roberts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, and White House Fellow alumni and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

He continues to serve as Neurosurgery’s representative on the CU Anschutz Housestaff Association (HA), which represents 1,100 residents and fellows on campus. In 2016-2017, Hosein was co-president of the HA. He also serves as a representative on the UCH Medical Board and the Quality and Peer-Review Committee.

Track record of service

Public service has long been integral to Hosein’s medical ambitions. During medical school, he was elected to serve on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. He also interned for former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and served as a policy advisor to former Nebraska Govs. Dave Heineman and Mike Johanns.

While Hosein is among a handful of neurosurgeon alumni of the White House Fellowship – another, Sanjay Gupta, MD, is now CNN’s chief medical correspondent – he believes the program would benefit from the perspectives of more CU Anschutz clinicians and researchers.

“There are people with incredible talent on this campus who would be competitive for the White House Fellows,” he said. “People here have already achieved remarkable things in terms of research and clinical training, and our government needs them now.”

Photo at top: The 2018-2019 class of White House Fellows and President Donald Trump. Official White House photo by Joyce N. Bog.