By Whitney Tarpy
University of Mississippi
John M. O’Brien, president and chief executive officer of the National Pharmaceutical Council, will present the annual Charles W. Hartman Memorial Lecture on Friday (March 11) at the University of Mississippi.
Hosted by the School of Pharmacy, the lecture will begin at noon in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. O’Brien’s presentation on “Navigating the Health Care Ecosystem to Improve Patient Outcomes” is free and open to the public. It also is available to watch via Zoom and the pharmacy school’s Facebook page.
The lecture will highlight the importance of pharmacists understanding the health care ecosystem to providing patient care, designing care delivery models and shaping the health policy landscape. O’Brien will share lessons learned from using his pharmacy degree in senior positions across the pharmaceutical and managed care industries, government, and academia.
“Good health policy begins with good research, and good research is a tradition at Ole Miss and NPC,” O’Brien said. “Research demonstrates the value of medicines and the importance of protecting patients’ access to the treatments they need, when they need them.
“Good health policy requires an understanding of how one small change can have a ripple effect across our health care system, in both good and bad ways.”
The NPC oversees research on the appropriate use of pharmaceuticals as well as the clinical and economic value of pharmaceutical innovation. This research serves as a scientific foundation for discussions about health care access, coverage, appropriate use and value.
As president and CEO, O’Brien is responsible for guiding NPC’s policy research and communications capacity, partnerships with other health care organizations, and strategic vision.
“We are excited to welcome Dr. O’Brien as the Hartman Lecture featured speaker,” said Donna Strum, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “His broad understanding and expertise of the health care environment will be an asset for our student pharmacists as they shape their future careers and the future of patient care.”
O’Brien earned his doctorate in pharmacy at Nova Southeastern University, his master’s degree in public health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and studied pharmacy and public policy at the University of Florida.
His postgraduate experience includes the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Executive Fellowship in Association Management and Leadership and the America’s Health Insurance Plans Certified Health Insurance Executive Fellowship.
Before joining NPC, he served as senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and deputy assistant secretary of planning and evaluation (health policy). He has held senior policy positions in the life sciences and managed care industries, including at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, was a career official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during President Barack Obama’s administration, and served as a health policy fellow in the U.S. Senate.
“A pharmacy degree provides many opportunities to improve patients’ health outcomes, either one patient at a time or millions at a time,” O’Brien said. “For me, the path was through health policy, but I first had to learn the many interconnected parts of the health care ecosystem.
“I’d encourage pharmacy students to ask questions and learn as much as they can about the health care system and supply chain and find mentors who share that passion. Pharmacists are such a critical part of our health care system, and we need them everywhere to improve patient outcomes.”
The Hartman Lecture was established at the school in 1973 to honor the late Charles W. Hartman, who was dean from 1961 until his death in 1970. Former lecturers include American Board of Medical Specialties president and CEO Lois Margaret Nora, former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter and two former U.S. senators, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott.