Speakers included prominent health care leaders Marylou Sudders, Dr. Kevin Churchwell, and Dr. Sandro Galea

Regis College held its President’s Lecture Series on Health with a panel of experts to explore “What’s Next? Transforming Health Care after the Pandemic Emergency.” Moderated by Regis President Antoinette M. Hays, PhD, RN, the discussion examined changes in health care delivery, behavioral health, and public health in preparation for pandemic emergency status to be lifted on May 11.

Marylou Sudders, MSW, ACSW, Former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Dr. Kevin Churchwell, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Boston’s Children’s Hospital; and Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean, Boston University’s School of Public Health, highlighted fundamental issues in the health care system that had already existed, but worsened after the pandemic.

A highly impactful leader in both the public and private sectors, Sudders served under Governor Charlie Baker as Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2015 to 2023. Her remarks focused on transforming healthcare delivery and payment and how the pandemic exposed critical vulnerabilities and strengths within the U.S. health care system. The pandemic provides an inflection point to fundamentally improve population health and be better prepared for the next pandemic. Sudders cited the workforce crisis as an area for opportunity saying, "We have to address housing, food security, and childcare access, fundamentally, if we want to improve the workforce crisis and population health.”

A renowned advocate for child health, Dr. Churchwell discussed how the pandemic sparked a substantial increase in behavioral health disorders among children and adolescents. Over the past four years, Boston Children’s Hospital reported a 61% increase in children visiting the emergency department with behavioral and mental health challenges. Going forward, he argues that we need to develop a range of solutions including transforming the care delivery model, researching and creating new therapies, and developing and retaining a diverse workforce.

“We must harness our collective experience, expertise, and commitment to address not only the current crisis, but also the long-standing systemic issues that are rooted in the lack of understanding and support,” said Churchwell.

Physician, epidemiologist, and author, Dr. Galea discussed how the pandemic has changed public health. Galea demonstrated that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented drop in life expectancy, setting us back as a world by 10 years. Essentially, the damage caused by the pandemic was not about the virus itself, but rather the conditions around the virus. Galea outlined what the world was like before the pandemic to show that existing social structures, health conditions, and lack of investment in public health were all factors that exacerbated the damage of the pandemic.

“It was underlying fault lines in our health as a country that affected all of us. It was the structures and the underlying health problems and our disinvestment that resulted in the pandemic causing the damage it did,” he said. Going forward, Galea suggests that we need to do three things regarding public health: center equity in all that we do, obtain better population health science to guide decision making, and implement better public health practices.

The Regis College President’s Lecture Series on Health offers dynamic and thought-provoking discussions about contemporary health and wellness issues. Established in 2007 in partnership with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a Point32Health company, this unique series of free lectures features industry experts addressing pressing timely topics for the benefit of health care professionals, students, and members of the public.