Posted by Dean Ellen Schall
It was such a treat to be at the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) last month to see John Billings, director of the Health Policy and Management program at NYU Wagner, receive the Lewis and Jack Rudin New York Prize for Medicine and Health. The award recognizes healthcare professionals for promoting public awareness of challenges facing the New York City health community. In her opening remarks, NYAM President Jo Ivey Boufford, my predecessor as dean of NYU Wagner, described Professor Billings as “the ‘go-to’ researcher who is able to deal with public policy issues in a practical way.”
NYU Wagner has set an aspiration for our faculty—to undertake research that changes the way people think and act on important public issues. Billings’ ongoing work on the complex challenges involved in health care delivery does exactly that and does it brilliantly. While NYAM previously gave this prestigious award to medical practitioners, they now confer it on administrators, policymakers, and researchers as well. It’s especially rewarding to see an academic honored for the impact his research has had on the rapidly changing landscape of health care.
After Dr. Boufford’s welcome, New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah introduced Professor Billings, highlighting his capacity to use analytics to solve tough problems. He said, “If it takes great analytics, John is probably involved.”
Billings’ talk, “Population Health: Improving Health of Vulnerable Populations,” documented inequalities and disparities in health outcomes. He addressed the need for structural reform to create incentives, including financial ones, to motivate the various actors in the healthcare system so that we address the needs of vulnerable populations more effectively.
The luminaries in New York’s health care world were well represented and served as an impressive testament to John’s impact and reputation. It was particularly moving to have Jack Rudin there. Jack and the Rudin family are preeminent civic leaders and have supported so many important causes and institutions, including NYU and NYU Wagner, so generously.
Professor Billings’ speech was an indication of why so many students so eagerly line up to take his classes. He asks tough questions, challenges the status quo, and brings sophisticated analytics to bear on issues that go to the heart of some of our biggest challenges.
Ellen Schall is Dean and Martin Cherkasky Professor of Health Policy and Management at NYU Wagner