Leading by example


By Edward Ellison, MD

Edward Ellison, MD

At Kaiser Permanente, we have our sights set on being the answer to health, health care, and wellness in America. It’s an achievable aspiration because Permanente Medicine is already revolutionizing health care by innovation in approaches to access and care, pioneering new technology, and capitalizing on available resources while focusing on individuals and population health. Our medical group is 23,000 physicians strong and in partnership with robust teams of nurses, caregivers, and technological and administrative support, we have the honor and privilege of caring for 12.3 million members across the country.

One of the greatest joys of my 30-year career has been not just witnessing, but also participating in and leading our organization’s long-standing commitment to practicing inclusive, ethical, equitable, evidence-based high-quality medical care for each and every one of our patients. This philosophy extends to our own workforce as we value and strive for equity, inclusion, and diversity among our physicians, clinicians, and staff. We are also doing everything we can to ensure that those who provide our high-quality care and service are being cared for with numerous wellness programs readily available to them.

Furthermore, one of the things that make Permanente Medicine so very special is that we are physician-led. This means that our physicians are empowered to make the best decisions for patients with the engagement, support, and expertise of care teams. Technological breakthroughs will continue to aid our efforts – and in some instances even replace them – but nothing can replace a model of care where care decisions are being made by those who took an oath to first do no harm.

While embracing innovative solutions puts us at the forefront of care delivery, we must also do our part in preparing the physician leaders of tomorrow. To help address the physician shortages that are on our country’s horizon, we offer extensive graduate medical education (GME) curriculum and rotations. The mission of our GME program is simple: to provide world-class education, built on the principles of Permanente Medicine, to prepare new physicians to care, to learn, to lead, and to improve the health of their patients and the communities they will serve. It’s a noble and exciting mission to live up to, and it’s wonderful to see so many future physicians who have the desire to rise to the challenge.

About half of the 26,000 senior medical students in the U.S. applied to Kaiser Permanente Southern California residency programs last year, and we have officially started accepting applications from prospective students for admission to the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine’s first class. This inaugural class will be starting in the summer of 2020 and will learn new and collaborative ways to practice medicine that are vital to ensuring high-quality care is available in the future.

Our students will learn how to look at patients’ health holistically, examining factors that may be influencing their health wherever they live, work, and play, all in a coordinated, integrated system of care. They will graduate knowing how to effectively advocate for their patients’ health, effect needed change, address health equity, and care for themselves while tackling evolving and challenging health issues. (And to help remove the burden that financial and student debt can cause, we’re waiving all tuition for the full 4 years of school for our first 5 classes).

It’s an exciting time to be in health care. It is, of course, demanding and challenging, but if the vocation calls you, I urge you to answer that call and to please consider doing it with us. In doing so, you will be upholding a physician-led, patient-focused, team-based legacy nearly 70 years in the making.

Edward M. Ellison, MD, is executive medical director and chairman of the board, Southern California Permanente Medical Group; chairman of the board and CEO, The Southeast Permanente Medical Group; board member, Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine; and co-CEO, The Permanente Federation LLC. Follow Dr. Ellison on Twitter: @EdEllisonMD. This column originally appeared on LinkedIn.