Dr. ‘Zeke’ Emanuel’s challenge
Rahm Emanuel may be the most famous of the three Emanuel brothers, but he’s probably not the most intense.
Sitting next to his older brother, Rahm comes off as folksy, flashing Cheshire grins and cracking jokes as he did in a TV interview last year, while Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel radiates an almost nervous energy, leaning forward in his chair, earnestly waiting for the conversation to turn to health care reform.
It is that very issue that has brought Zeke Emanuel, as he is known, to the White House with his younger brother after two decades as an oncologist and nationally recognized bioethicist.
There is one complicating factor to all this: Dr. Emanuel, 51, has some very different ideas about health care reform than President Obama and some of his key advisers.
And he carries that same fire in the belly for which his younger brother is known. He has been known to challenge superiors during his time at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere, colleagues say.
“He’s feisty. He’s not a milquetoast or a pushover,” says Victor R. Fuchs, a health policy and economics professor at Stanford University who worked with Dr. Emanuel over the past five years on a comprehensive health care re- form proposal.
That infamous Emanuel feistiness — shared by the youngest brother, Ari, a Hollywood “superagent” — was on display recently when Dr. Emanuel helped moderate one of several small-group discussions between members of Congress and health care industry professionals.
“Can I throw out a challenge?” Dr. Emanuel asked nearly an hour into the session. Then he asked the group of about 20 to propose concrete ideas for how to “make” health care providers lower cost and increase the quality of care.
When a Pfizer Inc. executive praised an idea to collect and publicize infection rates among hospitals in an attempt to name and shame poor-performing institutions, Dr. Emanuel spun quickly to his left and placed his hand on the shoulder of Rep. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.
“Do you agree?” Dr. Emanuel asked pointedly.
“Yes,” said the startled Mr. Blunt, who is heading up a Republican health care working group.
Dr. Emanuel pounced quickly: “And do you think the government ought to pay to collect that information?”
Mr. Blunt hesitated, and before he could say anything, Dr. Emanuel raised his voice.
“Who ought to get that information?” he asked sharply. “It’s a public good. We know that we underinvest in the public good.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, also was in the session.
“I was very impressed with him at that meeting,” she says days later during an interview. “He is intense.”
Dr. Emanuel, who is divorced and a father of three daughters, just last year published a 240-page book on health care reform — the product of his collaboration with Mr. Fuchs — based on his two decades of practicing medicine, researching bioethics issues and studying the intersection of policy and politics.
Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel is a nationally known bioethicist working on health care reform within the Obama administration, but his ideas don’t conform to the president’s goals in all respects.