It's the greater public good that motivates former Michigan congressman -- practicing physician and MSMS board member -- Joe Schwarz, MD. It's also why he responded enthusiastically to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's invitation to be part of her transition efforts.
MSMS caught up with Doctor Schwarz this week as he continues pressing forward on key statewide leadership issues, and found him as dynamic and thoughtful as ever.
MSMS: How did you and Gov. Whitmer first get connected?
JS: I knew her from the time we served together in the Michigan Legislature -- her first term in the state House was my last. We also worked together in the state Senate, and I always considered her a friend. Like me, she is a moderate and we worked across the aisle together quite often.
I looked at the gubernatorial candidates last spring and believed right away she would be best for the job. I began supporting her right away -- she's a centrist and a good listener, which are important skills in today's political climate.
MSMS: Which aspects of the transition are you most focused on?
JS: I'm really zeroing in on public higher education, health care, and the ongoing opioid epidemic. I've been working with numerous experts in all three areas, and I strongly believe there are some things we can do to improve our outcomes.
In particular, I am interested in possibly restructuring higher education funding in Michigan. We are pricing young men and women out of a public education. In medicine, the issue is even more alarming -- the amount of debt is insane, and it forces new physicians to specialize so they can pay back their student loans. We're going to lose general, independent practitioners unless we can solve this.
MSMS: How can Michigan's medical community get engaged?
JS: My answer is the same one I've given for decades -- more physicians need to be involved in the political process and speak out on issues that matter. More of them need to run for office, not just at the statewide level, but at the local level where they're working face-to-face to help their constituents.
It's about doing what's right for the greater good of our communities and, if we work together, we can make that happen.