Each year, we have a number of executives who teach or co-teach an entire block for us in the economics and business department. The year 2008 was no exception, and included Van Skilling ’55, Phil Condit P’91, Carlos Frum ’72, and David Helms ’65, who was here to teach a course — The Economics of Health Care — for us. (We also have many other alumni and others who are on campus for shorter visits to participate in our classes.)

I asked David Helms if he would be interested in writing a short piece for the Colorado College Bulletin, and he jumped on the idea. Our executive-teachers are supported by our Perspectives on Business program with funds provided by the Schlessman Executives-in-Residence fund (see sidebar). I think the use of executives is one of the most distinctive things we do — a result of the flexibility of the Block Plan.
— Larry Stimpert, professor and chair of the department of economics and business

David Helms ’65 and his students from the Economics of Health Care Class.

David Helms ’65 and his students from the Economics of Health Care Class.

Since I graduated from CC in 1965, I had never experienced life under the Block Plan. After teaching for a block, I can now report that both students and faculty are challenged by the fast pace and intensity of this format. One advantage of the block format is that the college can bring in national experts for a month to teach a block course. I can now attest that teaching three hours every day and making yourself available in the afternoons to meet with students about their papers and group assignments is exhausting. After finishing the grading of their papers and final exams, I returned home with a greater appreciation for what our CC faculty do during these block courses!!

Being on the front end of the baby boomer generation, I have been considering ways in which I might continue to make a contribution after I retire as president of AcademyHealth, the professional society for health services research and policy. With the thought that my future might include teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels, I developed a proposal for a special course on health policy that would be offered under the auspices of Colorado College’s economics and business department.

The Perspectives Program

The Perspectives on Business in a Changing World Program at Colorado College is a continuing program of visiting faculty, executives-in-residence, lectures, symposia, and other activities designed to discuss and evaluate business as an institution in our society. Faculty and students from different disciplines come together with visitors experienced in operating and observing business. Together, they explore, from a liberal arts perspective, the social, political, ethical, and technological dimensions associated with the varied and rapidly changing role of business in the world.

Schlessman Visiting Executives-in-Residence Program

A generous endowment by the Schlessman Family Foundation of Denver allows the economics and business department to invite several mid-level and senior executives to campus each year for prolonged periods of time (from a week up to a full 3 1/2 week block) during which they examine the role of business in society. This program bridges the gap between abstract knowledge about, and practical involvement in, the business world.

With the support of Larry Stimpert, chair of the department, the college agreed to have me teach a course on contemporary issues in American health policy in Block 7 last year. Four CC alumni with distinguished careers in health economics, health research, and private sector initiatives agreed to provide guest lectures during this block course: Jeffrey Bauer ’69, director of futures practice, ACS Healthcare Solutions; Beth McGlynn ’77, associate director, the RAND Corporation; Marilyn Moon ’69, vice president and health program director, American Institutes for Research; and Peter Neupert ’78, corporate vice president for health strategy, Microsoft.

After reviewing the history of why the United States had not followed other industrialized countries in enacting a system of universal health care coverage during the 20th century, this course examined the major challenges and policy options for expanding coverage, controlling costs, improving quality and increasing consumer involvement in health care.

The course provided students with the latest research and policy analysis on critical issues, including the uninsured, causes and options for controlling health care costs, and the state of health care quality and options for its improvement. The students had the opportunity to hear from leading national experts on coverage reform options, Medicare and Medicaid, and health quality, and from a health futurist and leader of Microsoft’s new initiatives in health information technology and consumer-directed health care.

For their individual papers, the students prepared a policy analysis on a topic of their choice. The papers covered a broad array of current health policy issues including: “Do We Need a Rationing Model?” “Transparency in Hospital Performance, Worksite Wellness Programs,” “Nursing Workforce Needs in Colorado,” and “Using Economic Incentives to Increase the Supply of Organs for Transplantation.” For many, this was their first policy analysis where the emphasis was on developing a clear statement of the problem based on existing research, and assessing the viability of options being proposed to address this problem. Some found it challenging to get past their personal beliefs about an issue to base their assessment on existing research about the problem and possible options.

With many of the students in this class focused on the national election, they seemed to really enjoy the group project assessing different proposals for national health reform. The groups assessed and supplemented health plans being proposed by three Presidential candidates — then-Senators Clinton, McCain, and Obama — and two other plans attracting interest — adapting the Massachusetts Health Plan for the country and a Congressional plan sponsored by Senators Wyden (D-Oregon) and Bennett (R-Utah) that would replace our current employer-based system with a new individually based system including subsidies for those with low and moderate incomes. After excellent group presentations and debates, the class voted on these plans by secret ballot; the top three plans were Wyden-Bennett, Massachusetts, and Clinton.

During my time at CC, I also held three small group sessions for students interested in various health careers. Of those attending these sessions, four expressed interest in working in the health professions including medicine, nursing, and social work; six are interested in economics and business related to health; three in health research; and four in health policy and administration.

With the many challenges our society faces in health and health care over the next 20 years, we are fortunate to have such a strong nucleus of bright CC students considering careers in the health field.

Some of the many alumni executives and visitors who have taught in the Colorado College Executives in Residence program:

Scott Holstein ’88, co-president and founder, Kim and Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels
Toby ’91 and Amy ’93 Johnson, ranchers
John Knight ’58, president, Viking Drill and Tool
Scott Desmarais ’86, consultant
Kishen Mangat ’96, vice president for solutions, Broadhop.com
Chris Zink ’04, carbon market manager, Eneco