Advocating for Michigan Medicine: Q&A with Kim Ross, chief government relations officer

December 12, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

Kim Ross joined Michigan Medicine as the chief government relations officer in March. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to advocate and support the organization’s faculty, staff and initiatives at both the federal and state level.

Headlines recently sat down with Ross to discuss her role and why it is so important in the ever-changing landscape of health care policy.

Q: Why do we need a government relations office and has this changed over time?

KR: Government impacts Michigan Medicine in multiple ways — from issues related to setting operational standards and oversight, to serving as our largest payer for services, to providing resources to support our clinical research and education. Government at all levels impacts the organization’s mission and ability to achieve its goals. For instance, the involvement of government — particular as a “purchaser” of services — has grown significantly in the past decade. As a result, the need for a government relations office has expanded for all health care organizations nationwide.

Q: What is the scope of your role as chief government relations officer and what are your primary goals?

KR: My office is responsible for government advocacy at both the state and federal levels. We develop strategies to respond to any government initiative that may impact Michigan Medicine, the patients we serve and the students we educate. We also strive to be proactive and highlight the clinical, educational and research expertise of colleagues at Michigan Medicine. Finally, we work to improve our faculty and staff’s knowledge of certain issues in order to give them an opportunity to address problems facing government and society. That’s a critical way in which we can demonstrate our organization’s value.

Q: What do you consider the biggest opportunities or challenges in health care legislation today?

KR: This is a great question, as there are many opportunities and challenges in health care today that the government seeks to address. The cost and quality of health care delivery, for example, will continue to be the subject of government involvement for the foreseeable future. Therefore, supporting public policy that provides better access to care for economically-challenged patients is highly important to the organization — we must serve as a voice for patients who struggle to gain access to services due to socioeconomic barriers. On top of that, we must do more to communicate our organization’s value and to demonstrate why supporting the research that takes place at Michigan Medicine is critical to improving the overall health of our citizens.

Q: As a prominent health care provider in the state, what do you feel are Michigan Medicine’s primary responsibilities from a public policy perspective to our communities?

KR: Because we are a public institution, I believe we have a greater duty to serve the citizens of Michigan than many of our peers. With that in mind, there are a large number of faculty and staff at Michigan Medicine working to better understand the various dimensions of the opioid crisis. As these experts identify approaches to address aspects of this critical issue, we work to share that information with a variety of government agencies and leaders. To me, that is “the Michigan Difference.”

For any given issue being contemplated by government, chances are we have faculty members, clinicians, students and researchers analyzing the subject. If there is a single aspect of being at Michigan Medicine that has stood out for me during my brief time here, it is the number of colleagues who are engaged in public policy-related activities. And what is most noteworthy is how they want to make their expertise and knowledge available to leaders in government. My office seeks to connect those experts with the proper government personnel whenever it’s necessary.

Q: Is your role different than a lobbyist?

KR: My role is to advocate on behalf of Michigan Medicine to government decision-makers. Therefore, that does make me a lobbyist — as I am someone who gets to lobby on behalf of this amazing organization. It is by far the greatest professional privilege that I have experienced. My office strives to represent Michigan Medicine with the upmost respect for our mission and with the greatest determination to achieve our goals.

Q: When you are not working, what do you like to do in your free time?

KR: I am the mother of 19-year-old twin daughters that keep me busy. In the fall, I am obsessed with U-M football, while in the winter I ski. Spring and summer are perfect times to be on the water — and I stay focused on recruiting news regarding U-M football all year long. Go Blue!

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