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Q and A at the CO-OP: Chief Medical Officer

Chief Medical Officer at Colorado HealthOP is only one of many, exuberantly, wide-brimmed hats worn by author/professor/director/carpenter Dr. Jack Westfall. See what our summer Clinical Care Intern, Sarah, learned about Dr. Jack.

Sarah Hansen (SH): If you had to describe what you do here to someone who didn’t know in one sentence, what would that sentence be?

Jack Westfall (JW): The Chief Medical Officer [CMO] provides vision for the clinical care services and benefits of our members and communities. Those visions include opportunities for healthy living and creating communities that make it easy to be accidentally healthy.

What skills are most important to have in your position?

Flexibility and risk taking and… yeah. I’m also told that listening is important, but the jury’s out on that one.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Aside from my whiteboard wall, I think it’s the opportunity to change the way healthcare is delivered. We are a part of the transformation of American healthcare. That is pretty cool.

What is the biggest struggle you face day-to-day on the job?

Having to deal with the intense regulatory environment in which insurance resides. Basically… being a part of the insurance industry.

What about Colorado HealthOP drew you in?

We are such a mission-based workforce; never have I worked in a place like this. From the CEO to CFO and beyond, everyone came in with an ‘I want to change the world’ attitude. I came on board because I had never seen such a mission-based group of people.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement since coming on board?

My greatest personal achievement has been that I have built an expert team.

Name the ways in which Colorado HealthOP and the High Plains Research Network (HPRN) intersect?

The HPRN is basically an experimental field station for the CO-OP in that it functions as a pilot site and research network for us. We have incorporated elements learned by the HPRN into our benefit designs. Right now they are working on a behavioral health study and cancer survivorship study, and depending on how those turn out they could become a part of our program here.

What do you think is people’s biggest misconception of you?

As a doctor in the role of CMO, people have preconceived notions on who and what I should be. I aspire to not be a CMO of an insurance company.

Now to my favorite question; If you could have any superhuman ability, what would it be and why?

I think what you actually mean is what additional superhuman ability do I want? And the answer is; I don’t want one. BUT, if I had to choose… it would be the ability to speak with animals.

Dr. Jack can put a smile on anyone’s face in the office.

From what I’ve been able to tell over a few weeks, you seem to be the resident mood-lightener. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

I don’t think there is anything off limits. Humor isn’t about the topic, it’s about the process of putting words together that highlight irony, inconsistencies, and droll turns of phrase. However, there are times and places where a joke is not the answer. There are times when someone is suffering and a joke is the answer and sometimes when it’s not. I guess the super human ability I want would be to know the difference between if someone needed a joke or not when they were dying.

Name a few items on your bucket list.

I don’t really believe in the idea of bucket lists. I think they’re just lists of things you’re putting off doing—and for me, the beauty is in the journey. But I actually have two… lists, that is. One is a list of the things I plan to do and will do, like visiting Turkey, and one is a list of things I would like to do if I could, like travelling the silk road from Italy to China.

Okay, last question. Innocent until proven guilty or vice versa?

Innocent. Period.

Dr. Westfall is the Chief Medical Officer at Colorado HealthOP and the Founder and Director of the High Plains Research Network. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for The Colorado Health Foundation. His medical career began at the University of Kansas, where he received both his MD and MPH.

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