Provost’s other hat: Teacher

first_imgAs provost, Alan Garber’s job is to help all of Harvard’s Schools work as one, a role that requires a near-constant aerial view of the University. But for two hours each week, he gets to narrow his focus to just 12 students, laptop-wielding freshmen who on a recent rainy afternoon gathered around a conference table in Sever Hall in his class called “Health Care on Less than $8,000 a Year.”The health care policy seminar, Garber’s first teaching experience at Harvard since he became provost in 2011, “has been one way for me to keep a foot in the world I used to inhabit,” he said. It’s also a chance for one of the University’s top leaders to connect with the youngest members of the Harvard community.In his prior life as a Stanford University professor, Garber said, he mostly taught and advised medical students, business students, graduate students in economics, and postdoctoral fellows, a far cry from leading a freshman seminar. An institution at Harvard since 1959, the seminars provide a unique, small-group experience for the College’s newest students; their pass-fail grading system and discussion-heavy format allow a chance for more relaxed, expansive learning in schedules generally packed with rigorous lecture courses.“It’s a wonderful time to get to know students,” Garber said of teaching freshmen. “You can reach them while they’re thinking about what they will study in college, and also what they will do with their lives.”During his own tenure as a Harvard undergraduate in the 1970s, Garber changed his concentration to economics with the encouragement of a resident tutor in Dunster House. That early advice, he has said in the past, changed the course of his education and his entire career.“I’ve been studying health policy issues for years,” said Garber, a physician who also earned a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard. But teaching a freshman seminar entails a different challenge: “You need to make the material understandable to people who aren’t in the field.”To kick off that day’s class, Garber posed a question to his students: Would they pay for an expensive cancer treatment if it would give a dying patient a few more months to live? The group was skeptical.“Just because something could help doesn’t mean a person is entitled to that thing,” Lauren Reisig said. Garber pressed her to name the ethical doctrine she was espousing. “Utilitarianism?” she ventured. (Correct.)“It’s sad to limit care for people who require treatment,” added Jenny Gathright. “But what’s sadder is that people are denied care at younger stages of life for things that are much cheaper” to treat.“You all seem to endorse the utilitarian perspective,” Garber concluded after a robust conversation — noting that the small group may not be a representative sample, given most Americans’ distaste for the idea of rationing healthcare. Traditionally, Garber told the class, the United States has never explicitly considered cost as a factor in deciding whether to provide life-saving treatments, but in many less-direct ways health care is constantly rationed.“It’s just not talked about,” he said. In the recent national health care debates, “rationing was used as an epithet.” But in reality, “the only question is what form rationing takes.”He then walked the class through techniques for assessing the value of given treatments: cost-effectiveness analysis (measuring the health outcomes produced by the money spent on a treatment), cost-benefit analysis (measuring the dollar value of the health outcome improvement produced by the treatment), and cost-cost analysis (a way to find the lowest-cost option for a desired treatment outcome).“Doctors in particular don’t like cost-benefit analysis, because they have a really hard time placing a value on lives,” Garber said. “But we’re doing it implicitly all the time.”As the group discussed ways to design comparison studies of different treatment options’ costs, it soon became clear that measuring the costs and benefits of medical treatments is far from a straightforward process of plugging in data and crunching the numbers. For instance, how does one define a patient’s quality of life, let alone gauge how much it improves with a given treatment?“It’s pretty simple, right?” Garber said wryly. “Except when you have to measure it.”After a brief discussion of the requirements for their final paper proposals, the class adjourned, though a couple of policy wonks-in-training lingered to ask questions. For his part, the provost seemed more than pleased with his role as teacher to his young charges.“I love getting back into the classroom.  It gives me a break from the rest of my day,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to spend time with Harvard students who are so bright and so capable. They’re looking at these issues with fresh eyes. And they may come up with fresh solutions.”last_img read more

Many contributed to wreath-laying

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionDec. 16 was historic, in that for the first time in the Wreaths Across America program, all 11,000-plus veterans’ graves at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery were able to receive a wreath – due largely to the generosity of communitywide support for this annual event. The Daily Gazette was generous in reporting on this program. However, I wish to clarify some of the information contained in The Gazette’s reporting of the Wreaths Across America event. Your article seemed to suggest that the Dec. 16 ceremonies were primarily a Patriot Guard Rider-led function and operation. While the Patriot Guard Riders are justifiably proud of our efforts and the significant support we lent to the successful result of this year, the Wreaths Across America program at the cemetery is operated and managed by the New York Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (Capital District) under the direction of Lt. Col. Anita Martin and her staff.The Civil Air Patrol has worked tirelessly to develop and nurture additional wreath sponsors and fund-raising organizations. Lt. Col. Martin and her cadets of the Civil Air Patrol also conduct the opening ceremonies before the actual wreath-laying by volunteers takes place. Also, the encouragement and support of Cemetery Director Scott Lamb was vitally important to the ultimate success we all enjoyed this past weekend.I thought it important to clarify your reporting so as not to diminish the fine work and efforts of the many other fine organizations who also made significant contributions to this historic Wreaths Across America day at the Gerald B.H. Saratoga National Cemetery.Bill SchaafTroyThe writer is state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homeslast_img read more

State Increases Dontell Stephens’ Settlement to $6 Million

first_imgSeven years after Dontrell Stephens was shot and permanently paralyzed by a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy, he will be receiving a larger multi-million-dollar payout as compensation for his injuries than initially planned.The Florida Legislature passed a bill on Wednesday ordering Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to pay the 26-year-old homeless West Palm Beach man up to $6 million.Although the amount is significantly less than the $22.5 million a federal jury had recommended, Stephens’ attorney, Jack Scarola, says, “The fact that a Republican legislature, that historically has been opposed to claims bills, passed it as overwhelmingly as they did, shows it was deserved.”The state Senate passed the bill by a 37-2 vote late Wednesday afternoon, two days after the lower chamber approved it by a vote of 160-0.The amount gives Stephens $1.5 million more than what Bradshaw agreed to pay in what he described as his “final” offer.After the final $4.5 million offer was made, legal questions were raised about whether the state legislature could cover bills that Stephens received while he was in rehabilitation and was being treated for potentially fatal bed sores that plague paraplegics, according to Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who sponsored the measure.For that reason, the bill was amended so that Bradshaw would have to use up to $1.5 million of tax money to in order cover Stephens’ unpaid bills.Stephens’ guardian will use about $3.4 million to purchase an annuity that could generate interest to cover Stephens’ living expenses, the measure explains.Another $1.1 million will go to Scarola’s law firm and other parties, including lobbyists, who worked together on the case.Scarola says his client will need more than $6 million. Since Stephens is expected to live another 50 years, he would $5 million in order to lead a semblance of a normal life for his condition, according to an expert who testified during the 2016 civil trial of the case in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale.The $3.4 million state lawmakers agreed to will provide some stability and security for Stephens, who had been living in a homeless shelter but is now sleeping on a friend’s couch, according to Scarola.The attorney adds that Stephens accumulated more than $3 million in bills from a Central Florida rehabilitation center, as well as doctors and hospitals that have treated him since he was shot by Deputy Adams Lin back in 2013.The deputy, who was later promoted to sergeant, shot Stephens a total of four times, moments after stopping him for riding his bicycle erratically on Haverhill Road in West Palm Beach.Although Lin testified that he thought Stephens was reaching for a gun, Stephens was unarmed. The black object he was holding at the time was a cellphone.Scarola will seek to reduce Stephens’ existing bills to $1.5 million by negotiating with those who are owed money.Lawmakers Slash Dontrell Stephens’ Settlement to $4.5 millionlast_img read more