Medical ethicist to speak on health care this week

This week, Williams College will have the privilege of hearing Dr. Audiey Kao, M.D., Ph.D. speak about such interesting and pertinent topics as medical ethics, health care rationing and the consumer in medicine. A dynamic speaker who is well respected in the medical community, Kao currently serves as Assistant Vice President of the Ethics Standard Division at the American Medical Association.

The primary aims of the Ethics Standard Division are to put ethical considerations at the forefront of the medical profession through educational and outreach programs and to conduct research on ethics-related policies. The Institute focuses primarily on the issues of end-of-life care, genetics, managed care and professionalism.

Kao will speak on three separate occasions during his visit to Williams. The first talk, on Thursday, May 14, is a question-and-answer session about how to apply and be accepted to medical school and what life is like as a physician. It will be held in Biology 111 from 4-5 p.m., and pizza will be served.

Thursday night, Kao will give a formal speech about the distribution of medical resources in the U.S., entitled “Rationing Health Care: Who Loses?” This will take place in Brooks-Rogers at 8 p.m.

Kao’s third and final talk will be on Friday, again in Biology 111 from 4-5. This discussion will focus on specific clinical cases dealing with the right to death issues. Each of these speeches is varied enough in their subject matter to interest a wide variety of audiences.

Kao received an A.B. degree, Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in biochemistry and economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1987. In 1991, he obtained his M.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He completed his residency training in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1998, Kao went on to earn his Ph.D. in Health Policy at Harvard. His thesis, entitled “Trust and Agency: The Patient-Physician Relationship in the Era of Managed Care,” focused on the impact of different physician payment methods on patient trust.

Kao’s current research is along a similar vein, and deals with issues involving the uninsured, patient-physician communication, the role of professional associations in the health care system, economic disclosure of financial incentives, and methods of allocating finite health care resources. Kao combines his economic background with his love of medicine in his attempts to discover what is best for the patient in today’s world of managed care and HMO’s. In addition to the work he does at the Institute for Ethics, Kao is also a Clinical Associate Professor in Medicine at the University of Chicago.

Kao has a unique background in economics and health care that allows him to view issues from multiple viewpoints and provide new insights on certain problems. Kao’s visit to Williams was made possible by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, written by Christian Dankers, and is sponsored by the HMB Premedical Society.