The residential college experience was the first of many opportunities to study in an international context.
Marty Makary '93 grew up near Lewisburg by way of Liverpool, England, "but I'm not one of the Beatles," he says with a laugh. Son of an Egyptian physician who'd moved to central Pennsylvania to establish a hematology practice at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., Makary arrived at Bucknell keenly career focused on medicine but also intent on sharpening his international outlook.
"I had been to Egypt several times by the time I came to Bucknell, so I was always a third-culture kid and found other third-culture kids there," he recalls. "I knew that the world was so much bigger than life in Danville, and the Global Residential College experience really allowed me to explore my interest in issues that face the world and to see that science and medicine are deeply connected to economics and public policy.
"The residential college experience was the first of many opportunities to study in an international context," adds Makary, a pancreatic surgeon and professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) School of Medicine. In medical school at Thomas Jefferson University, Makary twice studied in Japan, and during his surgical residency at Georgetown University, he assisted his aunt, Mama Maggie, with her mission to help children suffering in the shadow of Egypt's pyramids. Makary co-authored a book, his second, in 2015 titled Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman's Mission to Love the Forgotten Children of Egypt's Garbage Slums.
After writing that book, he realized "the more time I spend overseas, I'm reminded how small the world is, and it affirms how universal many of the problems are that we address in the United States."
But it was Makary's first book, Unaccountable: What Hospitals Don't Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care, that brought his crusade for greater accountability in health-care practices to the national stage. Since publication of the New York Times-bestselling book in 2012, Makary has traveled the country, speaking to health insurance companies, hospitals, medical schools and corporations such as Apple and Bank of America about transparency in health care.
"Besides transparency, they're also interested in the subject of an organization's teamwork and safety cultures, from my work in creating the surgical safety checklist, used before an operation," he says. Adopted by the World Heath Organization in 2006 with the help of Atul Gawande, Makary's checklist hangs on the operating room walls of almost every hospital in the world.
Makary, who performs surgery two days a week at JHU in Baltimore, spends the rest of his time "advocating on television for doctors and writing for The Wall Street Journal, speaking around the country every week and running Improving Wisely," a program the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched in 2016. "We're looking at areas of health care to reduce waste — unnecessary medications, tests and procedures," he says.
He's also writing a new book, with the working title Money Games: The Way to Pay Less for Great Health Care, which is slated for publication later this year.
"There's a fundamental philosophical question in all of my advocacy work that keeps coming up again and again," he reflects. "Do patients have a right to know about the quality and price of medical care? I believe they do."