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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/19/15

Health Care Renewal: A Quiet Turn of the Revolving Door - Director of NIMH to Go Directly to Google Life Sciences

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Message Roy M. Poses M.D.
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Reprinted from hcrenewal.blogspot.com

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Amidst a lot of health care news, the job plans of Dr Thomas Insel, currently the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (part of the US National Institute of Health) made a very small splash. The most comprehensive account was in the New York Times.

Dr. Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, announced on Tuesday that he planned to step down in November, ending his 13-year tenure at the helm of the world's leading funder of behavioral-health research to join Google Life Sciences, which seeks to develop technologies for early detection and treatment of health problems.

As noted in the NYT article, Dr Insel had great influence over the direction of mental health research and policy,

Dr. Insel took over the N.I.M.H. in 2002 and steered funding toward the most severe mental disorders, like schizophrenia, and into basic biological studies, at the expense of psychosocial research, like new talk therapies. His critics -- and there were plenty -- often noted that biological psychiatry had contributed nothing useful yet to diagnosis or treatment, and that Dr. Insel's commitment to basic science was a costly bet, with uncertain payoffs.

A Modern Healthcare article documented Dr Insel's specific organizational roles beyond his directorship that could have influenced research and policy,

Insel chaired the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which is a federal advisory committee that coordinates autism research and services and was established by Congress.

Insel also co-chaired the Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, which supported the pioneering Human Connectome Project, a project to map the human brain, and the NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies program, which aims to accelerate the development and application of innovative technologies to map brain circuits.

Insel also headed up the Common Fund efforts in Molecular Libraries, Single Cell Biology, and Genotype-Tissue Expression.

Comment

So Dr Insel clearly helped steer current US government mental health care research and policy towards its current course. Now he is going directly, not with any sort of delay or waiting period, to a commercial firm poised to take advantage of the current direction of US mental health care research and policy.

Although more subtle than, say, a leader of a government regulatory agency departing for a position at a company regulated by that agency, this, in my humble opinion, appears to be an example of the revolving door. Certainly it fits the broad 2011 Transparency International definition,

The term 'revolving door' refers to the movement of individuals between positions of public office and jobs in the private sector, in either direction.

Despite this, as far as I can tell, no one else so far has referred to this job transfer as an example of the revolving door.

Furthermore, as we noted here, the revolving door can be veiwed as a species of conflict of interest. Government officials who can look forward to extremely lucrative employment in health care industry may be much more inclined to seem friendly to the industry while in office. Government officials who just came from industry are likely to maintain their industry mindset and be mindful of their industry friends.

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Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University, co-founder Health Care Renewal, and President of FIRM - the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine, a not-for-profit organization (NGO) designed to raise (more...)
 

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