Magazine Names UCSF's Maa One of Country's Leading Advocates for Health Care Reform

John Maa

A leading health industry publication has named UCSF surgeon and emergency care specialist John Maa, MD, one of the country’s 20 most influential advocates for improving health care policy and practice.

In its annual ranking of “20 People Who Make Healthcare Better,” HealthLeaders Magazine singles out individuals who “are playing a crucial role in finding ways both large and small to make the [health care] industry better.” The honorees are selected by a panel of HealthLeaders editors.

Maa, an assistant professor of surgery and director of UCSF’s Surgical Hospitalist Program, describes health policy as his “passion” and has worked to bring a clinician’s perspective to discussions surrounding health care reform, at both the state and national level.

“The problem with all of the reform efforts so far is that the people making the policies don’t understand how health care is delivered and don’t understand all of the underlying issues,” Maa said. “If you don’t really understand the problem, you can’t propose any meaningful solutions.”

To hear an exclusive audio interview with Maa about reforming health care, visit the HealthLeaders Magazine website.

Promoting Political Activism

In 2004, Maa was selected as a Health Care Policy Research Fellow by UCSF’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, one of the nation’s premier centers for health policy and health services research.

Earlier this year Maa was named one of two Health Policy Scholars by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), which paid for him to attend a weeklong course in June on leadership in health policy and management at Brandeis University. As part of the scholarship, he also will provide health policy-related assistance to the ACS over the coming year and will represent the organization at the Joint Surgical Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2010.

In a letter to ACS leadership reflecting on the one-week course, Maa noted that the surgical profession in the United States “has suffered greatly over the past few decades from a lack of advocacy and representation on its behalf.”

By educating surgeons — and medical professionals in general — about the policy process and promoting political activism, groups such as the ACS can create “a new generation of physicians who can intelligently and confidently advocate on behalf of a vision to guarantee access to high-quality and safe patient care across our nation,” Maa wrote.

Maa says he will continue to promote such a vision through his own advocacy efforts, as well as his teaching at UCSF. Over the past year, Maa assisted in the creation of a multidisciplinary course for students in UCSF’s schools of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing, titled “Public Policy Advocacy for Healthcare Professionals.”

“Attorneys have made public service a distinct career path and they are very well represented in government — including Obama himself. But doctors hold so few key positions in government,” Maa said in a recent interview. “I’m trying to define a brand new career path for physicians, and to inspire medical students and residents to consider taking that path.”

And with Congress still waging a heated debate over the future of the nation’s health care system, there is no better time for doctors — particularly young physicians —t o make their voices heard, Maa said.

“There’s a whole generation of physicians in training right now whose livelihoods and future careers will be determined by what’s happening now in Washington,” he said.

In addition to his clinical surgical activities, Maa is President of the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association in San Mateo and spends time on several advisory boards and committees focused on improving the quality of care in hospitals.

Maa received his MD degree from Harvard Medical School and served as a Captain in the Medical Corps of the United States Army for nine years.

Maa and the other “People Who Make Healthcare Better” are featured in the December 2009 issue of HealthLeaders Magazine. The monthly publication focuses on the issues and trends shaping the health care industry, and has a circulation of more than 40,000, according to its website.

Related Links:


UCSF Surgical Hospitalist Program 

HealthLeaders Magazine 

American College of Surgeons 

“What surgeons can do to reduce the impact of smoking on surgical outcomes”  [PDF]
by John Maa, David Warner and Steven Schroeder
Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons, November 2009