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The Daily Tar Heel

Professor lends voice to health policy debate

Ricketts appointed to national committee

	Thomas Ricketts has 30-plus years of experience in health care.

Thomas Ricketts has 30-plus years of experience in health care.

Correction (October 29 1:45 AM): Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when Professor Thomas Ricketts began working at UNC. Ricketts began working at UNC in 1978, not 2001, after completing his masters degree. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

At a time when health care reform has become a hot topic in the national political scene, a University professor is helping Congress and the president call the shots.

Thomas Ricketts, health policy and management professor, said he hopes to use his position on the National Health Care Workforce Commission to make sure all health care professionals’ views are heard.

“We have a very diverse group of professionals and trained or experienced people whose work can be coordinated much better,” Ricketts, who is currently in France, said in an e-mail.

The commission was established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a large-scale health care legislation passed earlier this year.

The commission is important because it will be making direct recommendations to the nation’s lawmaking body, said Stephen Gamboa, adjunct assistant professor in the department of family medicine.

“The first step is to propose solutions,” said Gamboa, who has traveled to Washington, D.C. to offer advice on health care policy at the White House.

“It just depends whether Congress is ready to listen to their recommendations.”

Gamboa said Ricketts, who has worked at UNC since 1978, has done a lot of work to advance access to health care in rural areas, and that this area should be a focus of the panel.

“I believe that health care is a ‘special good’, and we cannot deny access to care for people who can’t get it,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts was appointed to the committee Sept. 30. He is also on the national Veterans Health Advisory Committee until 2011.

Although he has worked in and around Washington, D.C. since 1972 with organizations that deal with national health policy, he said he didn’t expect the appointment.

“I was surprised, frankly,” he said. “I’ve talked with several people I admire who said they tried to get to the commission but were turned down — that’s a very humbling thing.”

Ricketts is the codirector of the American College of Surgeons Institute for Health Policy Research and was the director of the N. C. Rural Health Research Program from 1988-2008, among several other positions.

Felicia Mebane, a professor who has taught with Ricketts, said she thinks he understands health policy and systems on a national and international level.

Ricketts, who said he travels to Washington, D.C. twice a month, said he will bring back to his classes an insider’s view of how policy is made.

Ricketts teaches several graduate-level classes.

He said he expects to serve a full three-year term on the commission.

“I was appointed for the full term,” he said.

“I hope that means that the Comptroller General thought I’d be worth a full three years.”

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