11.04.2009

The New Surgeon General Lacks a Degree in Lean


There is a lot I like about Dr. Regina Benjamin, who was recently confirmed as U.S. Surgeon General. I just wish she had some background in lean.

Benjamin has long been dedicated to serving the uninsured and underinsured in the rural south. She believes we need more primary care surgeons and supports greater emphasis on preventive medicine.

She also seems to understand many of the financial issues in healthcare. She operated her own clinic, and kept it going after her office was wiped out by a hurricane – twice. She even has an MBA from Tulane University.

She served as president of the State of Alabama Medical Association, and is a recipient of a so-called “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation.

So what’s not to like? I see nothing in her experience that indicates any familiarity with lean principles.

Why does that matter? Interest in lean in healthcare has been growing at a rapid pace, driven by a strong movement to improve the delivery and quality of medical care in the U.S.

Lean can be a powerful means of helping to achieve that goal, as evidenced by the many healthcare success stories. The market for books we publish about lean in healthcare is growing rapidly.

As the nation’s top doctor, the surgeon general can be a powerful voice for spreading the word about the benefits of lean healthcare – if she were aware of it and knew what to say.

By the way, the same could be said about the secretary of health and human services. President Obama’s HHS Secretary is Kathleen Sebelius, a lawyer and career politician who most recently served as governor of Kansas. And while many people have praised her work as governor, I don’t see any evidence of lean knowledge in her background either.

Someone should hold seminars on lean for cabinet officers – with attendance mandatory.


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