Faculty spotlight: J. B. Silvers
What is your current position at the Weatherhead School?
I am the Elizabeth M and William C. Treuhaft Professor of Health Systems Management and a professor in finance at the Weatherhead School and Epidemiology and Biostatics at the Medical School. I also head our efforts in health and bioscience here at the school.
What is your favorite part of teaching? What part is the most challenging?
I love the interaction with students. That is why I prefer the case method where I get to ask the questions and mix it up in a discussion format. I always learn something. Interestingly enough, the interaction is also the most challenging part since you always have to be on your toes.
What brought you to the Weatherhead School? What do you think of the Cleveland area?
I came to Case Western Reserve and Cleveland in order to integrate my life and establish the Health Systems Management Center. I had been splitting my time between a tenured appointment at the Indiana University School of Business where I did corporate finance and Harvard where I continued my work in health that I had started on the faculty there. It was no way to live with a family. And I found this place to be incredibly good intellectually and in terms of the quality of life. I have never regretted choosing either the location or the school.
What aspects of health care does your research focus on?
I have more articles in pharmeconomics (growth hormone) than elsewhere, although my work in insurance as a CEO and health policy on several commissions shapes my teaching in finance more. In general, I am interested in how complex decisions are made that involve tradeoffs between quality and cost where the physician is an agent for the patient, the payer and society.
It goes without saying that health care is a hot-button issue in this country right now. How can business and medicine complement each other in providing the most effective health care possible? Both are focused on creating value. However, as supplier and purchaser, business often misses the real needs of the health care supply chain. This is typically because health professionals are very bad at analyzing their own business needs and communicating what innovations or bottlenecks need to be addressed. Right now I am most concerned with how providers and business can manage to the outcome measures published by the government and the Joint Commission (where I serve on the board). If a business can help providers improve on these quality metrics their sales will boom as patients and payers seek them out.
What do you do in your spare time?
I sing in the choir at First Methodist Church downtown, run in the Rocky River Metroparks, enjoy time with my spouse of two years and my grown children -- and, in particular, play with my three-year old grandson. I read lots of non-professional books (think Harry Potter) and watch Comedy Central. In other words, I waste a lot of time but in very enjoyable ways!
What is the best book you have recently read or are reading?
On the non-fiction side, I am starting Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, a book about how we deal with rare events, to better understand the insurance business, I suppose. My most recent fiction was Hossseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, a sad story of Kabul before and during the Taliban. I needed a way to better understand Afghanistan where my stepson has worked for the last two years with the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch.