Two had vi­sions of a bet­ter world

Hall of Fame cel­e­brates Sen. Ed­ward Kennedy and Austin Ross

Modern Healthcare - - Health Care Hall of Fame - Neil McLaugh­lin Manag­ing Ed­i­tor

In an age in which self­ish­ness and bel­liger­ence have been suc­cess­fully mar­keted as virtues and com­pas­sion and co­op­er­a­tion as vices, it’s nice to see that some peo­ple hold dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties.

This year, Mod­ern Health­care’s Health Care Hall of Fame cel­e­brates the lives of two very dif­fer­ent peo­ple who pur­sued a com­mon goal of im­prov­ing the health and wel­fare of their fel­low cit­i­zens. Sen. Ed­ward Kennedy and Austin Ross also shared the role of prag­matic dreamer, en­vi­sion­ing an im­proved ex­is­tence for oth­ers and coax­ing co­op­er­a­tion from skep­tics to­ward that goal.

Their styles of­ten di­verged. Ross, ac­cord­ing to those who know him, led in a quiet, sub­tle man­ner. Through per­sua­sion and re­spect for oth­ers, in­clud­ing those who op­posed him, he man­aged to build Seat­tle’s Vir­ginia Ma­son Med­i­cal Cen­ter into a re­gional pow­er­house for pro­vid­ing health­care.

And his ef­forts didn’t end there. He served on the boards of the Med­i­cal Group Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion and the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Health­care Ex­ec­u­tives. He took up a sec­ond ca­reer as teacher and men­tor to a new gen­er­a­tion of health­care ad­min­is­tra­tors.

While Ross main­tained a low pro­file, Kennedy couldn’t help but be vis­i­ble. He be­came Congress’ cham­pion for health­care, us­ing leg­isla­tive acu­men to pur­sue ex­panded cov­er­age and com­pre­hen­sive re­form un­til his fi­nal days. Kennedy could breathe fire in speeches when push­ing his agenda. But he also com­manded re­spect in the Se­nate and, like Ross, de­vel­oped a tal­ent for build­ing al­liances. This skill helped Kennedy get leg­is­la­tion passed. Many ob­servers, Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic, have said Kennedy’s con­tin­ued pres­ence and leg­endary per­se­ver­ance might have re­sulted in a bi­par­ti­san com­pro­mise on health­care re­form.

Kennedy at the end of a failed pres­i­den­tial cam­paign may have summed up the at­ti­tude of all peo­ple like him and Ross, peo­ple with a vi­sion of a bet­ter world and the skill to at­tain it: “For all those whose cares have been our con­cern, the work goes on, the cause en­dures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

The pro­files of the 2010 Hall of Fame win­ners were writ­ten by Mod­ern Health­care Wash­ing­ton re­porter Jen­nifer Lubell and by Ed Finkel, a long­time free­lance con­trib­u­tor to the mag­a­zine. Lubell can be reached via e-mail at jlubell@mod ern­health­care. com, and Finkel can be con­tacted at edfinkel @earth­link.net.

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