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The guest in this episode of The Health Leader Forge is Dr. Michael Sherman, the Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President for Health Services at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Harvard Pilgrim is a New England-based regional health plan with 1.25 million members. It has been ranked #1 by NCQA for the past ten years. Michael holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in Medical Anthropology, he attended Yale Medical School, and is a board certified anesthesiologist. In the mid-1990's he made the decision to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School with the thought that he would seek to blend together his clinical expertise with a business education, but he was sure of one thing: that he would never work for an insurance plan.

In this podcast he tells the story of his career, about becoming a physician, making the transition to executive leadership, and how he ultimately worked for three health insurers (ironically, the payers he said he would not work for). Michael's career involves a great deal of serendipity, but it also shows his deliberateness as he worked to develop the skills he knew he needed to progress as an executive by gaining exposure and experience in a wide array of organizations. He is also quite candid about his successes and challenges, which shows that the road to senior leadership is never smooth sailing.

His discussion of the work he is doing with value-based payment and bundling at Harvard Pilgrim is particularly useful and timely. It is very popular to demonize health insurers, but Michael’s efforts to create win-win arrangements between Harvard Pilgrim and its partners in the provider community shows what is actually possible. It is interesting to see how his passion for developing these agreements meshes with a recurring theme of negotiations from different points in his career leading up to his current role. The podcast concludes with a discussion about Michael's leadership style, and his recommendations for physicians who are looking to make the transition from clinical leadership to executive leadership.

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The Health Leader Forge


Co-produced by University of New Hampshire College of Health and Human Services (UNH CHHS) and Northern New England Association of Healthcare Executives (NNEAHE).

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