Physician and administrator Dan Landry advocates for healthcare reform.
A technician moves around the operating suite, making sure the necessary equipment is in place. Lights shine brightly overhead, reflecting off the metal surfaces. A nurse murmurs a few final words of comfort and nods to the practitioner who is waiting to give the patient anesthesia. “Breathe deeply, and count backward from 10,” says the man wearing a surgical mask, who is sitting near the patient’s head.
Dr. Dan Landry has been on both sides of the mask. After more than two decades as an anesthesiologist, in 2015 he fell off a ladder at home and broke both his legs. The pain was not only physical; it was—as it is for many people— financial. Although he had health insurance, it cost Landry $15,000. “My injury didn’t propel me to go into healthcare economics, but it illustrates the problem,” says Landry. “For every patient who is undergoing treatment, the finances of that care are in the front in their mind.” Landry spent 15 years in the highest levels of management for Spectrum Healthcare Partners, before stepping down in January to return to clinical practice and become an advocate for change. “I believe that if we don’t reform the healthcare system in this country, it threatens everything we know.”
Landry grew up in Sanford, and graduated from his hometown high school. He went on to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maine in Orono. After completing his undergraduate education (and spending a few years as a ski bum in Vail, Colorado), Landry decided to follow his older brother, David, into medicine. “I grew up without a father,” says Landry. “David was a father figure, so I modeled myself after him.” Landry attended Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, and initially thought he might become an orthopedic surgeon. David (an anesthesiologist), and his wife, Dianne (an internal medicine specialist with the Veterans Administration) suggested that anesthesia might be a better fit. After completing his medical internship, Landry trained in anesthesiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and in pediatric anesthesiology at Boston Children’s Hospital.
While in Boston, Landry fortuitously reconnected with an acquaintance from the University of Maine: his future wife, Deborah. They recognized one another while traveling on the T. A graduate of York High School, Deborah has an undergraduate degree in zoology and animal biology from the University of Maine and a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. After living and working in Boston for several years, Deborah and Dan returned to Maine in 1994.
Upon his return, Landry joined Spectrum Healthcare Partners, focusing his practice on the care of children and adults with cardiac disease. He also became active in administration and health policy, eventually managing the largest division within Spectrum, and serving as that organization’s president and chairman of the board. “I firmly believe that physicians should be in leadership positions in hospitals and healthcare,” says Landry, who now lives in Yarmouth. “Non-physician administrators certainly have their heart in the right place, but physicians have a deeper understanding of what it means to take care of patients.”
“More doctors need to learn the language of business, so that they can have conversations across disciplines,” says Landry, who is studying for a master of science degree in health policy and economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Change not only is occurring, it has to occur. Physicians have got to be on board with what’s coming, and that’s hard.”
The rising cost of healthcare is having a widespread impact on people across the country. According to a 2016 survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times, “among people with health insurance, one in five working-age Americans report having problems paying medical bills in the past year. This often causes serious financial challenges and changes in an individual’s employment and lifestyle.” Landry does not believe that health insurance is the answer to this growing dilemma. “Insurance companies don’t have an impetus to change healthcare; they are simply a conduit for the money,” he says.
Consumers, and the companies that employ them, are taking a hard look at the situation. Employee healthcare represents one of the single largest expenditures for companies. “They are the ones who will push for solutions,” says Landry. “It gets right back to why health insurance was developed in the first place, which was to keep the workforce healthy.” Earlier this year, the CEOs of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and J.P. Morgan Chase announced a joint venture designed to explore better options for their United States employees and families. “Healthcare reform is going to come from people like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and those folks who have the money to invest in it,” says Landry.
The father of two sons, 23-year-old Samuel and 20-year-old Christopher, Landry is especially aware of the issue’s impact on the next generation—and generations to come. He seeks to transform the medical system that he has worked within for years. “I’m concerned about our kids, and their ability to pay for healthcare,” says Landry. “If we don’t change this trajectory, our kids and their families are going to really struggle.”