Understanding terminology first step toward improving health care, Harris tells Azerbaijan officials

November 04, 2011

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Terms such as “medical malpractice” mean different things in different countries around the world, but understanding quality of medical care is the first step toward reform and improvement, a UNC health policy and management professor told members of Azerbaijan’s parliament and representatives of government ministries.

Clinical associate professor Dean Harris (second from left) speaks with government leaders in Azerbaijan.

Clinical associate professor Dean Harris (second from left) speaks with government leaders in Azerbaijan.

Dean M. Harris, JD, clinical associate professor of health policy and management at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, delivered the keynote address about medical law and ethics at a conference on Oct. 12, in Baku, Azerbaijan, sponsored by the Institute on Human Rights of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

 
Discussion about malpractice and reform of the law are better than silence about the problem, Harris said.
 
“Silence allows bad practices to continue and does not improve the quality of care,” he said. “Silence also leads to mistrust of health-care workers by patients and their families. As demonstrated by the experience in China (over the past several years), silence can contribute to violence against doctors and other health-care workers, because patients and their families are angry and frustrated.”
 
Harris also discussed what policymakers in the United States and around the world can learn from each other. In particular, Harris emphasized the importance of regulating health-care providers, such as physicians, by means of an effective system of licensing. He is planning to work with local experts in Azerbaijan on the possibility of developing a system of licensure for physicians in that country.
 
During his five-day stay in Azerbaijan, Harris also conducted a training program on issues of medical law and gave two lectures at the Baku State University’s Faculty of Law. He was a guest on an Azerbaijan television program about bioethics.
 
On his way to Azerbaijan, Harris stopped in Leuven, Belgium, to give a presentation at the European Conference on Health Law, titled “Health Care Across ‘The Pond’: Legal Rights and Obligations of US Citizens Who Seek Medical Care in Europe.”
 
Harris is an adjunct associate professor at UNC’s School of Law. He also holds an adjunct professorship in the Health Economics and Management Institute (HEMI) in the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University (China). Currently, he is working on the development of educational resources to build capacity for health regulation in developing and transitional countries.
 
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UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or ramona_dubose@unc.edu.