Health Policy, Management Skills Help Surgeons Navigate Complex Systems

STS News, Fall 2019  After reaching a point in his career when he realized the need for a global approach to health care delivery, Keith D. Mortman, MD, sought out further training to help him achieve that goal.

“Understanding current health policy and management is essential in order to become a better leader, operate more efficiently within increasingly complex health care systems, and educate my trainees so they are better prepared for the practice of medicine,” Dr. Mortman said.

To advance his knowledge in these areas, he applied for and received the 2019 STS/American College of Surgeons Health Policy Scholarship, an annual award subsidizing attendance at the Executive Leadership Program in Health Policy and Management at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. The scholarship is open to surgeons who are members in good standing of both STS and ACS.

Dr. Mortman attended an STS Legislative Fly-In in 2012, but otherwise has had little experience with health policy. And while he’s taken on increasing health care management responsibilities in his role as chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at The George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC, he has never had any formal management training.

The goal of the Brandeis course is to help physician leaders improve health care quality, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency. Dr. Mortman said the topics he found most valuable were strategic thinking and decision making, effective leadership styles, and leading change in complex systems.

The weeklong course sparked such an interest in these subjects that he is considering enrolling in the Executive MBA for Physicians program at Brandeis.

“Understanding current health policy and management is essential in order to become a better leader.”

Keith D. Mortman, MD

“I’ve really been inspired to gain an even better understanding of the concepts that were covered—and the ones that were not,” Dr. Mortman said. “The additional knowledge and experience acquired from this course and possibly an Executive MBA will be useful in my clinical roles, as well as with my administrative and educational responsibilities.”

He also plans to increase his efforts in advocating for the specialty. As part of receiving the Health Policy Scholarship, Dr. Mortman will serve on the STS/AATS Workforce on Health Policy, Reform, and Advocacy starting in January.

“Since I practice in Washington, I hope to become more involved on the national level with the Society, representing the interests of cardiothoracic surgeons and our patients,” he said.

Applications for the 2020 STS/ACS Health Policy Scholarship will open later this fall and will be due February 3. For more information, visit

The Thoracic Surgery Foundation (TSF) also offers scholarships that partially cover the cost of attending the Brandeis course. Applications for TSF’s Alley-Sheridan Scholarship will open December 1 and are due February 15, 2020; visit for more details.