Kaiser Permanente Names Dean Of New California Medical School

When health policy expert and pediatrician Mark Schuster searched for a book to help parents speak easily and accurately with their children about sex and sexual health, he couldn’t find one he liked.

Dr. Mark Schuster will take on the role of founding dean and CEO of the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine next month. (Courtesy of Mark A. Schuster)

So, the Harvard professor — a leader in research on child, adolescent and family health — enlisted the help of a medical school classmate to write the 2003 guide for parents  “Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask).”

“We just thought we know a lot about this topic and we care about it,” Schuster said. “So let’s just fill this gap.”

On Tuesday, HMO giant Kaiser Permanente cited that vision in its appointment of Schuster as founding dean and CEO of its new Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine. The school, one of more than a dozen — including osteopathic schools — in California. has been set to open in fall 2019. (Kaiser Health News, which produces California Healthline, is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

Unlike most of the nation’s medical schools, Kaiser’s will not be affiliated with a university, nor will it be run by a governmental system. Teaching doctors is nothing new for the HMO giant, however. It already provides residency training to hundreds of medical school graduates each year.

One way the school will set itself apart from traditional medical education, Schuster said, is by providing students with immediate hands-on clinical training that will emphasize teamwork and access to Kaiser Permanente’s technology, including mobile technology-based platforms used by many of its 11.8 million members.

“Kaiser Permanente has created this integrated system where everybody is a partner in supporting their members’ health, and we’re going to benefit from that,” Schuster said. “Our students are going to be learning from that.”

“Over the course of Dr. Schuster’s career, his innate curiosity and creativity led to innovation in patient care,” said Holly Humphrey, dean for medical education at the University of Chicago and chairwoman of the new medical school’s board. “He will draw on these same strengths to help his students learn the lifelong habits of an excellent physician.”

Schuster, who will begin his new job next month, said he’s eager to help “transform medical education” by offering students at the new medical school a curriculum that will focus on population health, patient engagement and underserved populations.

“I think this whole school is going to be amazing,” said Schuster. “This school will really be able to make a difference in how we approach medical education, which will affect how we provide health care, ultimately — the health of the public.”

The inaugural class of 48 students will begin their education as the state braces for a shortage of primary care providers. A recent report by the University of California-San Francisco finds the state will be short 4,700 primary care providers by 2025.

Schuster said that while the school’s small classes won’t likely solve that shortage, it’s his goal for doctors to graduate equipped to offer community-wide health care. He said students are not necessarily expected to work for Kaiser after they obtain their medical training.

“Our aim is to equip medical students with the knowledge and skills to be leaders in improving the health of patients and communities wherever they choose to practice,” he wrote in an email. “We hope that our students will practice in many diverse settings and share their knowledge and skills with patients from all over.”

Schuster, a native of Baltimore, is also a researcher and author of more than 200 journal articles, research briefs and reports on the quality of care, family leave, health disparities, obesity prevention and bullying. He also co-authored the book “Child Rearing in America: Challenges Facing Parents with Young Children.”

The center is one of seven Centers of Excellence initially funded through the national Pediatric Quality Measures Program by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Since 2007, Schuster has been a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and chief of general pediatrics and vice chair for health policy in the Department of Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Earlier he was a pediatrics and health services professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and a director of health promotion and disease prevention at the Santa Monica-based Rand Corp., a think tank.

CORRECTION:  This story has been updated to correct the date Schuster’s book about children’s sexual health was originally published. It was 2003, not 2009.  Also, the story incorrectly reported the number of members Kaiser has. It is 11.8 million, not 10.2 million.

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