February 09, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

Four panels over four weeks will discuss the international, educational, justice and political angles of health care delivery.

Larry Gerbens set out to plan a class for the Calvin Academy of Lifelong Learning (CALL), a group of retired and semi-retired persons who meet to continue their Calvin educations. I thought, ‘It’s an election year. There are so many issues surrounding healthcare delivery in the United States … . Let’s just do something about that,” Gerbens said. Then, the person he approached to teach his class, renowned heart surgeon Luis A Tomatis, told him: “You should do panels.” Two months later, Gerbens had organized a month-long series, featuring panels of experts discussing crucial issues of health care delivery.

The series is called Health Care U.S.A: Is There a Cure? and it takes place 3–5 p.m. Tuesdays, February 14, 21, 28 and March 6. The event will take place in the recital hall of the Covenant Fine Arts Center.

All facets of health care

A different health care issue will be featured on each date:

On February 14, the panel, with Tomatis as moderator, will tackle the issue of “Health is a worldwide issue: Health Care Delivery Systems in Other Countries.”

“You know, we know so little about how other countries deliver healthcare, we should start there,” Gerbens said. The panel will consist of Asghar Khagani, a native of Iran and the head of Spectrum Health’s heart transplant program, local orthopedic surgeon Joh.n C Colwill—who will discuss the Canadian healthcare system— Michigan State University College of Human Medicine  professor Kim Ludwig, who formerly practiced in Germany, and obstetrician and gynecologist Michael Magan a native of Peru. “He’s going to talk about all of South America,” Gerbens said.

The February 21 panel will handle the topic of “Let’s start at the beginning: Medical Education in the United States.”

“There’s so much going on in medical education in the United States and so much going on in Grand Rapids,” Gerbens said. “Who will be delivering the healthcare in the future? The students we’re training now.” The experts discussing the med-ed issues will be Robert F. Ruiz, director of admissions for the University of Michigan Medical School, Marsha Rappley, dean of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Peter G. Coggan, president and CEO of Michigan Educational Partners and Jared Rispens, a 2009 alum, former Calvin student body president and current medical student at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Tomatis will again moderate.

Justice and health care

February 28’s panel will discuss “Caring for the ‘least of these’: Economics and Healthcare Disparity in the United States.” Said Gerbens: “We’re all responsible, not only for the healthcare but for the care of the least of these—those who face day-to-day issues of survival whether food, clothing, shelter, healthcare.”

Moderated by Mark A. Lemoine, the system government affairs director for Spectrum Health System, the panel will include Shannon L. Wilson, the executive director of the Grand Rapids African-American Health Institute; Lara M. Vander Molen, the medical director of Health Intervention Services (HIS); Lody Zwarenstyn, the president of Alliance for Health and Kim Horn, the president and CEO of Priority Health. “I wanted someone who was in the trenches,” Gerbens said of Wilson’s and Vander Molen’s participation in the panel. Zwarenstyn will provide the viewpoint of a watchdog agency, and Horn will give the insurer’s perspective, he added.

The March 6 panel will attempt to answer the question “Can we arrive at consensus: The Politics of Healthcare and the 2012 Elections.” Lemoine will again serve as moderator as Dr. Khan Nedd, the Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Grand Rapids African American Health Insitute; Steve Heacock, the senior vice president of community affairs for the Spectrum Health System; Ken Sikkema, the senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants; Mary Alice Williams, the president of the Nokomis Foundation; Scott Vander Linde, PhD, chairperson of Calvin’s economics department and Philip H. McCorkle, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Health Care.  

CALL president Ray Vander Weele thinks the symposium is a natural broadening of the work CALL normally does: “We’re reaching out to the entire west Michigan community—not just Calvin College. That’s our mission, to provide educational and spiritual opportunity for the greater community,” he said. Gerbens compares it to another of Calvin’s venerable educational offerings: “Like the JS,” he said, “It’s a gift to the Grand Rapids community from Calvin College.”

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