Harvard Headlines: A Healthcare Nominee, Tensions over Squash, and Volcanic Academic Fallout

A wrap-up of recent news about Harvard

Among the Harvard-related stories of interest this week:

  • President Barack Obama has formally nominated Donald M. Berwick ’68, M.D.-M.P.P. ’72, professor in the department of health policy and management and clinical professor of health care policy and of pediatrics, to become head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (They have functioned without a permanent chief since October 2006, when Mark B. McClellan, M.D. ’92, M.P.A. ’91, left the job.) Berwick also serves as president and CEO of the Cambridge-based, nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which he helped found in 1991 and which seeks, in his words, to help “organizations make care better and costs go down.” The New York Times reported on the likelihood of the nomination in late March; the Boston Globe offered a summary of the likely pros and cons of the nomination the day after it was announced. Berwick was an early proponent of hospitals’ adopting the so-called checklist for surgical safety, as noted in “A Checklist for Life,”  from this magazine’s archives.
  • Earlier this month, a story in the Harvard Crimson suggested that “internal politics” played a role in the recent decision not to renew the contract of head squash coach Satinder Bajwa, which has roiled the Harvard squash community and ignited a counter-movement. (In the announcement issued on April 13, Nichols Family director of athletics Bob Scalise said he appreciated “the hard work that coach Bajwa demonstrated on behalf of” the men’s and women’s teams, but the department had decided “to go in a different direction with the leadership of the program.”) According to a Boston Globe report this week, “More than 50 current and former players and parents have signed a petition expressing their ‘extreme disappointment’…and requesting the coach be reinstated,” and the Crimson reported that one supporter of the program is threatening financial retribution. During his 11-year career in Cambridge, Bajwa has compiled a 175-61 record with the men’s and women’s squash teams. This year, the men’s team finished fifth in the nation for the second year in a row, while the women went undefeated and won the national championship, their first since 2000-01. Harvard also won both national individual titles, with Colin West ’10 capturing the honors on the men’s side and Laura Gemmell ’13 taking the women’s title. Given the teams’ past records--in the 1980s and ’90s, the men’s teams won six and eight national championships, respectively (the ’97-’98 win was their last); the women’s teams,  four and six--concerns about the squash program are not new. Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam, then blogging about squash for Vanity Fair, surveyed the topic a year ago in this  report on the state of the sport at Harvard.
  • The Harvard Crimson tracked down two faculty members whose travel plans were disrupted by the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Baker Foundation professor and Bower professor of leadership development emeritus Robert S. Kaplan ended up in Dubai, rather than hiking in Switzerland, after delivering a lecture in India. Leverett professor of physics Gerald Gabrielse, delayed in Finland, nevertheless managed not only to teach his quantum mechanics class via video link, but catch a dozing student in the process.


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