Innovator Article

Making An Impact in Healthcare Management
UC Davis Neurologist Dr. Steven Brass Seeks to Empower Doctors

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By Joanna Corman

Dr. Steven Brass, a neurologist with a sleep medicine specialty at the UC Davis Medical Center, has run clinics, directed sleep labs, conducted research and served as a consultant on several FDA advisory panels that approve medical devices and medications during his 14 years as a doctor.

He’s at the top of his game in medicine. Now he’s positioning himself for his a long-term goal to become a hospital executive, finishing up his first year as a student in the part-time Sacramento MBA program, which holds classes on the UC Davis Health System campus.

An assistant professor of neurology at the UC Davis Medical Center, Brass also directs the center’s Neurology Sleep Clinical Program and is co-medical director of its Sleep Medicine Laboratory.

In the sleep clinical program, Brass evaluates patients with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome in collaboration with his pulmonary colleagues.

During the past few years, Brass has taken on several leadership roles and attended a number of leadership and management courses while pursuing a master of public health from Harvard University. With these experiences, he felt that one of the best ways he could affect patient care and influence the nation’s health system would be at a higher level. Being a hospital executive would allow him to have a significant impact on safety, quality and cost-effectiveness in healthcare delivery.

“I first got a taste of the importance of healthcare management through my master of public health training, and as I went on with different leadership experiences I realized I really enjoy it and I could make a big difference,” he says.

With the nation’s healthcare industry at a historic turning point, Brass wants to help doctors make crucial decisions about the country’s fast-changing system. Issues of money are often taboo among doctors, he says, and rarely addressed in medical school. Yet in order for doctors to play a role in helping improve health care, they need to understand the financial and management side of the business.

“It’s important for physicians to be more knowledgeable about healthcare costs, and to be able to balance clinical effectiveness with cost effectiveness,” he says. “If, as a physician, you do not get involved, someone else will start to make those decisions for you.”

Brass received his medical degree from McGill University in 1998 before completing a residency in neurology and a fellowship in multiple sclerosis at Harvard University. His work with MS patients, many of whom had undiagnosed sleep disorders, plus his own medical diagnosis of sleep apnea in 2006, led him to pursue a second fellowship in sleep medicine.

In addition to his clinical roles, Brass is leading an international sleep study, is an associate editor for the journal Neurology International and has had many articles published, including three in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Brass already has put his classroom experience to work. He recently prepared a presentation for the UC Davis Medical Center administration and his department chair to persuade them to buy new equipment to modernize the sleep lab. He drew on knowledge from his courses in accounting, marketing and statistics and included a financial analysis showing when the device would break even and show a profit.

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