September 22, 2023 : By Christian Shields - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University School of Health Sciences welcomed Johns Hopkins University Professor of Surgery Dr. Marty Makary to campus on Sept. 14 to share on prevalent issues within the healthcare industry, such as the extreme costs of healthcare and insurance and the importance of challenging current scientific misconceptions.
Makary serves as the chief of Islet Transplant Surgery for Johns Hopkins. He is a leading healthcare expert, a Fox News contributor, and a New York Times bestselling author. He previously served in leadership at the World Health Organization.
Makary’s visit and Grand Rounds lecture, presenting the latest on public health and healthcare reform, commemorated a new collaboration between the School of Health Sciences and Johns Hopkins, highlighting the School of Health Sciences’ commitment to providing high-quality educational and research opportunities to students. The three-year partnership will provide the opportunity for Liberty’s public health graduate students to conduct research on healthcare policy under the direction of Makary and his research team, including Christi Walsh, M.S.N.-C.R.N.P., the Director of the Healthcare Graduate Research Program at Johns Hopkins, who was also a part of the event. The students selected to participate in the program will be conducting research at the JHU School of Medicine, in the Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., area.
“We are so proud at Johns Hopkins of this new, exciting partnership with Liberty University, and you should be proud to be part of an incredible institution here,” Makary told the faculty and students in attendance.
“We have partnered with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to invest in the future of medicine and public health and to develop new leaders in healthcare,” said School of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Heidi DiFrancesca. “Our students will receive a customized program for advanced training in the real issues in healthcare and will be mentored by Dr. Makary, along with other members of the research team.”
This past summer, three of Liberty’s Master of Public Health students were selected as the 2023-24 research fellows to join Makary and Walsh’s current research program, focused on the ‘redesign on healthcare’.
“Through this experience, our students will have the chance to be involved in high-impact research that could significantly influence the redesign of healthcare, leading to improved quality of care that is patient-centered, improved health outcomes, and improved state and federal public health policy. Our students will be equipped with the tools necessary to challenge deeply held assumptions both about U.S. healthcare and those held in the medical community, empowering them to engage in practical solutions that lower healthcare costs resulting in improved access to care across all populations,” DiFrancesca said.
Makary began the lecture by encouraging the students in their journeys and emphasizing the importance of a career in serving others.
“One thing that unites all of us in healthcare, it doesn’t matter what country you’re in or what level you are at, is the desire to help other people,” he said. “That is a calling and a mission. And that’s what sets all of us apart.”
He spent a large portion of the lecture addressing problems within healthcare, namely excessive waste and the rising costs of medical care. Noting that around 48 percent of the total United States budget involves some aspect of healthcare, around 62 million Americans are “functionally uninsured” either due to being completely uninsured or otherwise underinsured.
“Everybody wants (people to have affordable healthcare),” Makary said. “Who wants someone to suffer because they don’t have enough money. … We all want the same thing, but how are you going to get there?”
His solution is eliminating waste — by challenging current scientific thought and by forcing hospitals to be upfront about cost of care — to ensure that the money patients spend actually contributes to better care.
Makary listed several historical examples of faulty research done that led to incorrect conclusions, such as Dr. Ancel Keys’ manipulation of data on low fat diet research, the incorrect assumption that narcotics were not addictive, the false belief that giving peanuts to young children causes peanut allergies, and many others. Acknowledging that the general public has a large respect for healthcare professionals, Makary stated that doctors and nurses should honor that trust.
“People appreciate humility,” he said. “I can tell you from taking care of patients, if you say, ‘Look, I’m sorry. We made a mistake,’ they are incredibly forgiving if you show some degree of humility.”
Makary also urged students to conduct their own research and boldly challenge anything they believe to be incorrect.
“We have a duty to uphold of staying true to the science,” he said. “The purpose of science is to challenge and even controvert deeply held assumptions in the field.”
He also spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased hysteria that arose from fear of the virus. He argued that instead of trusting the science, scientists were poorly prepared to prevent the virus because they relied on unfounded misconceptions. He noted that the research that went against the established thought was sometimes censored from distribution.
Makary also argued that large pharmaceutical companies heavily emphasize an overreliance on medicine instead of promoting other solutions to health issues, such as eating healthy, practicing good sleeping habits, and building communities.
In addition to the clinical waste prevalent in healthcare, Makary noted that administrative waste plays a significant role in preventing the American public from receiving proper care. He demonstrated the incredible profit that many hospitals make through price gouging and an unwillingness to be upfront about costs. He said the number of hospitals that are suing patients for unpaid medical bills has dropped significantly because of an increased push by himself and others for hospitals to be transparent and upfront about costs before providing the care.
After the lecture, Makary answered questions from those in the audience about how transparency can eliminate the American public’s dependency on insurance as well as how the students can make a difference in their communities.
“When somebody asks you, ‘How do we fix our broken healthcare system?’ You let them know about clinical waste in the field, the administrative system, and our great heritage that we need to get back to. That only comes through challenging deeply held assumptions,” he said.
Following the lecture, DiFrancesca spoke about the importance of the Grand Rounds event and hosting Makary and Walsh on campus.
“In the School of Health Sciences, we strive to provide world-class educational experiences, equipping our students for successful careers. Hosting Dr. Makary, showcasing the strength of the partnership forged between our two institutions, underscores our commitment to provide exceptional education and research opportunities to our students,” she said. “Likewise, this partnership showcases LU’s top talent in public health and our investment in developing future leaders in the public health and public policy space, Training Champions for Christ.”