Healthcare Conversation

Knowledge in Action:

SPPD Sparks Conversation on Health Care Challenges

By Cristy Lytal

LaVonna Lewis and Dr. Anthony Pollard SPPD teaching professor LaVonna Lewis and Dr. Anthony Pollard
Photo by Tom Queally

When physician Anthony Pollard asked a group of USC students if they trusted the government or insurance companies with their health care, the answer was an emphatic no. They did, however, trust their doctors.

This dialogue between the students and Pollard – the founder of the Rainbow Medical Centers and Anthony L. Pollard Charitable Foundation in Nevada – was one of the Fell Undergraduate Student Conversations at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development (SPPD). The audience included staff, faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students, as well as Pollard’s daughter, Lauryn, a graduating senior and progressive master degree student at SPPD.

“The idea of the Fell Undergraduate Conversations is really simple,” said David Sloane, professor and director of undergraduate programs at SPPD. “Undergraduates get lectured a lot and so do graduate students. And we hope that through the Fell Conversations, we can just have a conversation instead of having it be this formal ‘turn on the PowerPoint, let’s do something very structured’ approach.”

LaVonna Blair Lewis, teaching professor at SPPD, led the conversation by posing a series of provocative questions about health care entrepreneurship and racial challenges. When Lewis asked about health care reform, Pollard set the tone for the lively discussion.

“First off, I don’t really think it’s health care reform,” he said. “I think it’s insurance reform. And I’ll say that because not a lot of things are really going to change as long as there’s no public option.”

He added, “We had an opportunity to make some great changes in our society in terms of real, pure reform. We didn’t do it because we’ve got great lobbyists.”

Currently, health care is a large cost for the American society. In Pollard’s opinion, health care spending will reach 25 percent of the gross national product 10 years from now and bankrupt the country.

In addition to expanding insurance coverage, health care reform emphasizes prevention as a cost-saving measure. With that in mind, Lewis raised the question of how the system can move from a medical care model to a health and wellness model. She also pointed out the relative lack of health care information available to disadvantaged populations.

“Should we be educating the people who are socially and economically at risk?” responded Pollard. “Yes, we should, but it’s very difficult to do that when people are socially and economically at risk, and they can’t feed their baby. Last thing they want to hear about is health care. The fact of the matter is now, even with all the changes that the so-called health care bill has passed, you’re still going to have 10 or 15 percent of the population that doesn’t have health care.”

He stated that people would not have equal access to health care “as long as we continue to view the system as a way to capitalize and extrapolate economic benefit.”

La Mikia M. Castillo, who is pursuing dual Master of Public Policy and Master of Planning degrees, enjoyed the conversational format of the event.

“It made me feel like I was part of the discussion,” she said. “Dr. Pollard’s perspectives on trying to run a socialist health care system in a capitalist society were very eye-opening for me and made me think more critically about the challenges facing universal health care.”