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Two weeks after Donald M. Berwick ’68 confirmed that he has been contemplating running for governor of Massachusetts in 2014, he said he plans to embark on a “listening tour” of the state in the coming weeks.
Berwick, a health care policy lecturer at Harvard Medical School, said in an interview with The Crimson that he will focus on learning about the state and about the concerns of Massachusetts voters.
“I have a lot of ideas about what I want to accomplish, but I also have a lot to learn,” Berwick said. “The exciting thing to be doing now is learning.”
Berwick returned to Massachusetts in Dec. 2011 after working under president Barack Obama as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Berwick said that he hopes to use his expertise in health care policy to improve all sectors of the Massachusetts health care system.
“We’ve got the potential for showing the country what world class success can look like across the board,” he said.
Should he run, Berwick would build on Massachusetts’s position as a leader in healthcare and education by tackling issues ranging from education to the environment to unemployment, he said.
During his 17-month tenure as administrator, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services implemented many of the provisions included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Obama signed into law in March 2010.
As administrator, Berwick drew opposition from conservatives for many of his proposals, such as the rationing of health care services to prevent rising costs. Berwick had also previously stated that an efficient health care system involved a redistribution of wealth, prompting further opposition from conservative critics.
Berwick entered office after Obama bypassed Senate approval for Berwick’s position and named him as a recess appointee in July 2010 before the Senate could schedule official confirmation hearings.
After Obama formally nominated Berwick for the post again in January 2011, a group of Republican senators wrote to the president demanding that he withdraw the nomination. Faced with such strong opposition to his confirmation, Berwick stepped down in December 2011.
Berwick, who said that he was “always interested in public policy and healthcare,” began his career as a pediatrician, graduating in 1972 from Harvard Medical School and Harvard Kennedy School. In 1991, he went on to become a co-founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a nonprofit that, according to Berwick, aims “to improve healthcare all over the world.”
In 1990s, he also helped reform Britain’s National Health Service and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 for his efforts.
If Berwick decides to run, he will follow in the footsteps of Senator Elizabeth Warren—another Harvard professor who returned after a brief stint in Washington to run for office in Massachusetts. Berwick said that Warren’s victory has proved that a candidate who has spent most of his or her career outside of politics can succeed in the political arena.
Only one candidate for the governorship, Joseph Avellone—a fellow Medical School alumnus—has officially thrown his hat in the ring. Avellone, health care executive and former Wellesley, Mass., selectman, announced his candidacy to the Boston Globe on Jan. 8.
Other potential candidates include Michael E. Capuano, a congressman in the Seventh District, and Steven Grossman, the state treasurer.
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