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Timothy Foster MHCDS ‘15

Chair, Department of Orthopaedics, Newton-Wellesley Hospital

Timothy Foster MHCDS ‘15 Image

After 22 years as an orthopedic surgeon at Boston University Medical Center, Timothy Foster thought he was at the pinnacle of his career.  A surgeon to numerous collegiate and professional athletes, he was an associate editor at the American Journal of Sports Medicine and had been lauded by US News and World Report and Boston Magazine as one of the area’s top surgeons.

Then he took the helm of the 87-physician orthopaedic surgery department at Newton-Wellesley, and found that he needed skills he didn’t have. Though he knew a lot about performing anterior cruciate ligament surgery or mending a torn rotator cuff—the business and policy side of medicine was something new. 

From analyzing contracts with accountable care organizations to understanding how physicians and hospitals were reimbursed, Foster had gaps in his knowledge he wanted to fill. That led him to Dartmouth’s Master’s of Health Care Delivery Science program.

Within weeks of beginning class what he learned was making an impact. “We’ve been looking at buying a $1 million robotic system that matches the patient’s individual anatomy to a customized hip or knee replacement,” he says.  “Does that really add value to health care?  How many of these surgeries are we going to have to perform to make a margin on it? Is it going to provide value to the patient?  Is it an improvement over the current technology and skill of the surgeon?  What I’m learning has immediate benefit to me.”

Moreover studying variations in health care utilization and outcomes with researchers from The Dartmouth Institute has given him insight in his role as the associate editor at the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Yet one of the greatest strengths of the program has been learning from his peers, who come from diverse areas of the healthcare industry.

“I love the interaction with the other students,” Foster says. “To have someone who is a top executive of United Healthcare in one corner and a clinician in another and someone who is vice president of finance of a major hospital company in another leads to great classroom discussions.”