PHOENIX-- Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, founding director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, has received a 2010 Leader of the Year in Public Policy award in Health Care from the Arizona Capitol Times. The fourth annual awards ceremony, held Tuesday in Phoenix, honored 17 individuals and organizations for their professional and civic involvement.
Dr. Weinstein is founding director of the national award-winning ATP, one of the top telemedicine programs in the world. He is being honored in part for his authoring of the public policy for telemedicine in Arizona in May 1996. Then-state Rep., now state Senate President Robert “Bob” Burns, sponsored the legislation. Dr. Weinstein and Sen. Burns also established the Arizona Telemedicine Council, a non-statutory overarching authority that oversees telemedicine activities in Arizona, which has been chaired by Sen. Burns since its inception.
“This is a tremendous honor to be acknowledged by the publication that covers our state government and objectively depicts all of Arizona’s leaders,” said Dr. Weinstein. “To be recognized by the Arizona Capitol Times is a great tribute to the work of the Arizona Telemedicine Program and the University of Arizona.”
Dr. Weinstein created the Arizona Rural Telemedicine Network to provide the broadband telecommunication infrastructure for ATP. This telecommunications collaborative links 70 communities and more than 150 sites by broadband telecommunications and is a major facilitator of telemedicine in Arizona. The network has provided access to health-care services for hundreds of thousands of patients with a cost saving of millions of dollars for Arizona health-care institutions in both the public and private sectors. More than 1 million teleconsultations in 60 subspecialties of medicine and nursing have been provided over ATP’s network. Fifty-five health-care organizations in Arizona and neighboring states are members of ATP and use its telecommunications network.
“The Leaders of the Year in Public Policy awards stem directly from what has been built over many decades at the Arizona Capitol Times. This event is the only one of its kind to honor leadership and excellence in public policy,” said Ginger Lamb, vice president and publisher. “Each of the honorees was nominated by their peers for this prestigious honor and has made a positive impact on our state and the people of Arizona without regard to political affiliation or partisanship.”
About Dr. Weinstein
Dr. Weinstein became interested in public policy as a pre-medical student at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., where his mentor was the college’s president, Dr. H. Carter Davidson. A native of Schenectady, Dr. Weinstein had met Dr. Davidson through family friends while he was a high school student. Dr. Davidson encouraged him to attend Union College and took an interest in his career planning. In 1958, Union College received Ford Foundation funding for its first U.S. Congressional internship. Although as a pre-medical student Dr. Weinstein had focused on science courses, Dr. Davidson encouraged him to take the government survey course that would automatically award the summer internship in Washington, D.C. to the student with the highest course grade. (A few years later, Dr. Davidson acknowledged that he had been curious to see if a “bookish pre-medical student” would outperform 65 “extroverted government majors” in a competitive classroom setting.)
Dr. Weinstein won the fellowship and spent the summer of 1959 working in the office of 14-term U.S. Congressman Samuel S. Stratton from upstate New York, who took him under his wing. Dr. Weinstein carried out government research on congressional office public relations. He distributed his research questionnaires about congressional office marketing practices to all 435 congressional offices, retrieved them, tallied the results and then shared them with the participating congressmen. He shadowed Stratton at many congressional committee hearings and also found time to attend U.S. Senate committee hearings. Dr. Weinstein witnessed the “Teamster Hearings” in 1959, during which Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa and his lawyers faced off against the chief counsel for the Senate’s special committee to investigate labor racketeering, Robert Kennedy. One morning in August Dr. Weinstein found himself sitting among Robert Kennedy’s family members, a row behind the future President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, who had celebrated her 30th birthday the week before. Some of the family members were college students Dr. Weinstein’s age. Sitting with the Kennedys during these hearings humanized the political process for Dr. Weinstein. He became deeply engrossed in the activities of Congress and by the end of the summer he was hooked on the idea of being involved with government sometime in his career.
Years later, Dr. Weinstein was given the opportunity to write public policy for telemedicine in Arizona, which he welcomed, having thought about telemedicine issues for decades: in the late 1960s he had done his pathology training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where pioneering work was done on the creation of the first multi-specialty telemedicine program. In May 1996, he generated an eight-component statewide telemedicine policy for Arizona in three hours and the document was approved by Arizona governmental leaders by the end of the week. His Arizona telemedicine public policies remain in place, essentially unchanged, today.
Dr. Weinstein holds joint appointments as a professor with the UA College of Medicine Department of Pathology and with the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, Community Environment and Policy Division, Section of Public Health Policy and Management. He has served as president of five professional societies, each of which has had public policy roles. But his activities in the public policy arena involving Arizona telemedicine bring him closest to his first love for government – his summer internship in the U.S. House of Representatives during his student days decades ago.