Wolk conference explores health care challenges and opportunities

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Students seeking their vocation in America’s challenging health care system could benefit from a liberal arts mix of biology, economics, and philosophy.

Kicking off the 2016 Michael J. Wolk ’60 Conference on Medical Education last month, the nationally renowned cardiologist and conference namesake stated that just five percent of the population consumes 50 percent of the health care spending in the United States.

“We also need to address the fact that one percent of drugs account for 33 percent of pharmaceutical spending,” Wolk said.

These and other sobering statistics, which show the United States lagging behind other developed countries in health care outcomes while outpacing them in spending, highlight the difficult problems facing providers in the years to come. That’s why Wolk returns to Colgate every two years to help current students explore the industry on which he has made an indelible mark.

Health and Sciences Advising Committee Chair Julie Chanatry said that the conference has moved away from a strict focus on medical doctors and more toward an exploration of careers in the health care industry as a whole.

“Health care is a team sport, and at every conference, we’ve tried to bring in more health care providers and talk a bit about the economics of health care,” Chanatry said. “Our students and alumni need to understand what’s going on, and the landscape of health care is changing rapidly.”

Alumni and parents — including dentists, genetic counselors, orthopedists, nurses, and physical therapists — returned to Colgate for the conference to share their experiences and insights with current students.

Among them, Jill Hummell P’16, president and general manager of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Connecticut, discussed the state of the industry from an insurance perspective.

“The conference brought a lot of issues into perspective and [let us know] how we, as Colgate students, can better equip ourselves for the future,” said conference attendee and medical school applicant Julia Fisher ’16, of Westfield, N.J. “Throughout the lectures and panels, there was a clear focus on a patient-centered model for health care delivery.”

The medical school acceptance rate for first-time applicants from Colgate is about one and a half to two times the national average.

“Here at Colgate, we are surrounded by mentors and support. This includes but is not limited to Dr. Chanatry and the entire Health Science Advising committee, the physicians in the Health Sciences Shadowing Program, and our dedicated professors,” Fisher said.

Chanatry said that the Wolk Conference, another signature element in Colgate’s effort to prepare students for careers in health care, is about providing a broad picture of the industry landscape.

“We want students to know more about the strengths and weaknesses of the system and what they are going to be facing,” she said. “It’s not just about love for the career, but also looking beyond that love and examining the health care system and what their role in that system may be in the future.”

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Wolk conference boosts ’gate athletics
Pre-professional planning
Health sciences advising