Kenny Cole, MD, MHCDS ‘15
Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, Baton Rouge General/General Health System
After becoming an executive board member of the 85-doctor Baton Rouge Clinic, physician Kenny Cole began reading extensively about the health care system and was disturbed by what he found. “I went into medicine to be a good doctor and to help people, and to see so many stories about how the healthcare system didn’t help or even harmed people made me think,” says Cole, who is also chairman of the clinic’s internal medicine department. “The more I read, the more hungry I became for knowledge.”
Cole’s interest in reform led him to Dartmouth’s Master’s of Health Care Delivery Science program. “I wanted to acquire the knowledge and leadership skills to participate in a meaningful way in transforming the health care system,” he says. “It’s been incredible. You can tell that for the faculty this is a mission try to change the world by changing health care.”
The combination of intensive on campus study and online classes allows Cole to continue his medical practice and managerial responsibilities without missing a beat. “The residential session was immensely helpful and lets you build relationships,” he says. “Then you look forward to seeing your classmates online every week.”
Born in a small town in Louisiana, Cole is particularly bothered that his home state ranks last in the nation by some measures of quality of healthcare, even though its annual spending per Medicare beneficiary is among the highest in the nation. As Cole sees it, the problem isn’t just that Louisianans eat more unhealthy food or have higher rates of smoking, but that many health care providers are entrenched in a system that rewards providing procedures and services, regardless of necessity or benefit.
“The regions of the country that are delivering the most effective care have embraced innovations in care delivery that facilitate the achievement of better outcomes,” he says. “They harness the power of information technology and redesign processes of care to achieve greater value better results at lower costs. The better you are at managing chronic conditions, the less expensive the care ultimately ends up being.”
Studying with a group professionals ranging from insurance executives to government officials to hospital administrators has broadened his view of challenges in the health system.
“Everybody does have a different background and a different view of things,” he says. “There’s a lot of back and forth and it provides a richness to the experience that’s extremely valuable.”