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Altamont native takes over as CDPHP’s chief medical officer – The Daily Gazette

ALBANY — An Altamont native took over as CDPHP’s chief medical officer this month, continuing her transition from caring for one person at a time to improving the health of an entire population .

Dr. Elizabeth Warner is the first woman to serve as CMO of the Albany-based health insurer, and she is also now one of its executive vice presidents. She previously held lower rank positions at CDPHP and prior to that was a surgeon for 10 years in Bennington, Vermont.

“I was one of those kids who wanted to be a doctor when I was 5,” said Warner, 48.

Her career at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington was rewarding, she said: “It was a wonderful little hospital, it still is.”

The problem was the work-life balance that she and her husband, also a surgeon, were unable to maintain. Their two children are now teenagers, but when they were little there were not enough hours in the day to do everything. McDonald’s started to become their go-to dinner option.

“It wasn’t easy being part of a family of two surgeons with two small children,” Warner said. “We tried to make it work.”

Various iterations were tested, including reduced hours, but none resolved the issue.

“It was tough being a part-time general surgeon because your patients need you,” she said.

Going from general surgery to breast surgery didn’t work out either.

“It was difficult to grow my practice and continue to develop my skills part-time,” Warner said.

She took a second part-time job as medical director at CDPHP. Unable to continue doing both, she walked away from daily medical practice in 2015.

“There are things I miss about it,” she said. “As far as being a doctor, providing one-on-one care, those are just different jobs.”

Being a surgeon, she says, “can be hugely rewarding, but it can also take a lot out of you.

“So now I make decisions about patient care, but for our entire population.”

As chief medical officer, Warner is sometimes involved in individual patient care through programs such as Hospital to Home, through which members with severe or unique medical needs are assigned a care manager with training in medicine or social work.

The manager can turn to the chief medical officer or other doctors on the CDPHP management team for advice.

But more often, Warner looks at the big picture: the trends or issues that largely affect the insurer’s 400,000 members.

COVID is at the root of this discussion now.

“COVID doesn’t seem to be over yet and rates are rising,” she said. “I think the other big need right now is behavioral health.”

The number of people with psychiatric problems has increased at the same time as the number of mental health care providers has decreased – both in part because of the pandemic.

As an insurer, the CDPHP must ensure that treatments are available to its members, and this is part of its role as chief medical officer. Telemedicine, which has become widespread during pandemic social distancing, will be part of the solution, Warner said.

There is also, she says, a need to make the whole healthcare system easier to use.

CDPHP is taking steps to make the process more integrated and transparent by operating its own pharmacies, co-locating with healthcare providers, and forming a management partnership with Community Care Physicians, the region’s largest group of independent physicians. .

But beyond that circle, Warner said she sometimes struggles to navigate the system on behalf of her own family — even as a doctor married to a surgeon and helping run an HMO.

“If I can’t get things done with the snap of a finger, I don’t know how anyone can,” she said.

“I think the American healthcare system has largely not been built with the patient at the center.”

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