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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Former White House Advisor Discusses Career Working in Healthcare System

Pallavi Bommareddy/The Hoya | On the 4th anniversary of COVID-19’s status as a pandemic, former White House advisor Andy Slavitt spoke about his experience working in healthcare at a fireside chat at an event hosted by the Georgetown University’s School of Nursing, School of Health and School of Medicine.

To recognize the fourth anniversary of the date that the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, Georgetown University’s School of Nursing, School of Health and School of Medicine jointly hosted a fireside chat with a former White House healthcare advisor about working in the healthcare industry Mar. 11.

The event, titled “Navigating the Healthcare Journey and Pioneering Tomorrow,” featured Andy Slavitt, a former senior advisor to the Biden administration’s COVID response, now a general partner at healthcare investment firm Town Hall Ventures. Dr. Kevin Ban (COL ’90, MED ’96), the former global chief medical officer of Walgreens’ pandemic response, moderated the conversation.

Attending the event were Dr. Robert Califf, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Roberta Waite, dean of the School of Nursing; Christopher King, dean of the School of Health; and Dr. Lee Jones, dean of the School of Medicine, among other faculty, alumni and students.

Slavitt reflected on the start of his career, stating that he began working in the finance industry before a personal tragedy prompted him to step into the healthcare field.

“I was making really bold choices, going to Goldman Sachs, Harvard Business School, then McKinsey,” Slavitt said sarcastically at the event.

However, after one of his close friends died from a brain tumor in his early thirties, Slavitt said he felt the desire to change course in his career.

“That kind of thing is the thing that throws you off course; it doesn’t have to be a tragedy, it can be anything, but something takes you up and says, maybe working twenty hours a day on Wall Street isn’t what I want to be doing,” Slavitt said. “I started caring about people who were under- and uninsured, people who didn’t have healthcare access, and that became a thread in my life.”

Slavitt went on to found HealthAllies, an internet-based company focused on helping uninsured patients. HealthAllies was later acquired by UnitedHealthcare, a healthcare conglomerate where Slavitt worked for the next decade.

“I built my life and sold it to UnitedHealthcare,” Slavitt joked. “And I spent ten years there on what was then a new business.”

During Slavitt’s time at UnitedHealthcare, the Obama administration launched the website for the Affordable Care Act, which shortly thereafter crashed. Slavitt reached out to the administration to help improve the technology and soon began work in the public sector. 

“It was 2013, they launched the ACA, and for me this was exciting because I had focused on the uninsured and underinsured,” Slavitt said. “President Obama launched this huge initiative and it came out, and it fell flat because the technology didn’t work. I felt like there was a lot at stake for a lot of people, but also for our country’s ability to do important things.” 

“I called the White House, and I didn’t expect anything of it, but I called on Tuesday and that Friday they had a press conference at the White House where they announced that I would be leading the turnaround,” Slavitt said.

As acting administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Slavitt said he was involved in many healthcare transitions related to increasing equity.

“We were introducing things like value-based care, which is how we pay for healthcare, we were expanding access, we were making all kinds of changes, and the organization wasn’t set up for change, it was meant to set policy and make rules,” Slavitt said.

According to Slavitt, his experience working in the healthcare industry emphasized the importance of collaboration between private and public sector offices, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to drive change in the healthcare system.

“When you’re at the White House, or HHS, or CMS, you are maybe working with a couple hundred colleagues, so you have to rely on the private sector – doctors, physicians, hospitals, pharmacies – to do their jobs and to be accountable.”

Now, Slavitt is a general partner at Town Hall Ventures, a venture capital company that invests in companies focused on addressing healthcare equity issues.

Slavitt said that the company is focused on providing healthcare solutions to communities that are often overlooked by the current system.

“There’s another half the country, about 130 or 140 million Americans, who either live on a low income, live on a fixed income, live in a zip code where there is not a lot of healthcare, live in a community where they have been forgotten, maybe they are elderly, maybe they’re on Medicaid, and it’s not that we don’t know what to do, it is that we have not built our system around the way people live,” Slavitt said.

Slavitt said that he hopes to translate ideas that researchers, doctors, and businesspeople have created into the reality of these communities.

“We started Town Hall Ventures to create an innovation platform for people in these underserved communities to bring the best care and best ideas into their communities, and it turns out that there are entrepreneurs and physicians and scientists who have the answers,” Slavitt said.

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About the Contributor
Pallavi Bommareddy
Pallavi Bommareddy, Senior Science Editor
Pallavi Bommareddy is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences from Fremont, Calif., studying neurobiology and economics. She has never read the Harry Potter series. [email protected]
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