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A conversation with Jon Rosell

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 8, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Jon Rosell, executive director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, says he has the best job in town.

“I love the complexity and diversity of the issues,” Rosell said. “We have outstanding physicians that quietly go about the business of treating people every day, that make our community what it is, and it’s an honor to work with them.”

“Health care is going through all these changes. Some respond to it in fear and trepidation; others see it as a huge opportunity. I fall in the latter category. I see it as a huge opportunity, and even though there’s lots of unknowns, there’s huge opportunities for our community, society and the health and well being of patients.”

An Abilene native, Rosell holds a doctorate in special education administration from the University of Nebraska. He was an executive vice president at Heartspring, a Wichita center for children with special needs, for 13 years, and was also a special education administrator in the Kansas City area.

He came to the medical society in fall 2006. The medical society was founded in 1903 by 25 physicians and has grown to more than 1,250 members. Roughly 92 to 94 percent of physicians in the community belong to the medical society, Rosell said.

What was appealing to you about the position at the medical society?

What interested me was the opportunity to work closely with physicians, and over the years I’ve had very positive experiences working with a wide variety of different physicians and other health care professionals, as well as working on policy-related issues. The longstanding reputation of the medical society provided an incredible foundation on which to build.

The medical society has been active in the Kansas Sports Concussion Partnership, an end-of-life campaign to ensure patient wishes are carried out, and you’re working to lower the infant mortality rate, just to name a few things. What are some of the legislative issues you hope to look at moving forward?

We enjoy a very close working relationship with the Kansas Medical Society and work closely with them on legislative issues. We’ll have to wait to see what rises to the surface in this coming legislative session. The importance of our medical school is one we’ll be watching very closely, making sure it’s appropriately funded so that this campus produces doctors for Kansas. The medical society has been a strong supporter for years and will continue to be a strong supporter for the school.

About 50 percent of practicing physicians in this community either went to medical school here or did a residency here.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role?

There’s no mistaking health care is in the midst of incredible change, and the biggest challenge – and thus the biggest opportunity – is to be able to navigate this organization and its members through that change that allows the members and the organization to be able to continue to deliver outstanding care, to be able to help improve the health of the community and to be able to allow physicians to emerge from this change process with a greater appreciation for the practice of medicine. It’s not easy. It’s very challenging right now. It’s a stressful time.

A big part of the Affordable Care Act is getting ready to roll out as the online health insurance marketplaces open on Oct. 1. What is the physician reaction?

I think similar to the general population, within our physician community we have a distribution of opinions about huge systemic change like this. Many are very supportive of it, some are very concerned about it, and few if any physicians would agree that some change wasn’t necessary. We could debate for a long time whether the current approach is the most appropriate.

My personal belief is the opportunity for long-term sustainable change is best when it comes from within a community based on common values, principles and relationships, but we missed that opportunity a number of years ago. At the end of the day, it’s the law of the land, and we will implement it the best we can so patients can continue to receive and have access to quality care.

Medicaid in Kansas was not expanded. What do you think is the future of that issue?

I think we need to have a healthy, rational discussion on Medicaid expansion. We’re beginning to see those conversations occurring, and when we sit down and talk about what it means, what the impact is, what the cost of not expanding, the cost of expanding actually is to our community, our employer groups, our hospitals, our physicians and ultimately our state, I think there’s an opportunity for some solution there. It’s just going to take a lot of discussion and communication that includes listening and expressing opinions and ideas.

What are your thoughts on KanCare (the state’s privatized Medicaid program that went into effect in January)?

I firmly believe KanCare was a step in the right direction. It represents on the state level a huge systems change. There’s no question there’s been challenges with that change, but in general it’s moving in the right direction and it’s accomplishing the goals the administration set out to achieve. I’m hopeful it will prove to be a smart move. We will have to be vigilant about correcting problems that occur.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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