January 23, 2014

Mitchell W. Spellman, MD, PhD

Mitchell W. Spellman, MD, PhD, 1919-2013

Contributed by Lincoln Cushing, Archivist and Historian

I’ve seen Kaiser Permanente mature and become a role model for prepaid group practice around the country. It has proven that quality and affordability don’t have to be in conflict.

In November 2013, Kaiser Permanente said goodbye to an old friend, Mitchell W. Spellman, MD, PhD (1919–2013). Dr. Spellman was an assistant dean at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine from 1969 to 1978; thereafter and until he retired in 1990, a dean and a professor of cardiac surgery at the Harvard Medical School. He served on the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Board of Directors from 1971 to 1990. His service was in his words “the most enduring professional relationship” he'd ever had.

First impressions of Kaiser Permanente

“I had moved to Los Angeles in 1969 ... and had read that the California Medical Association was concerned about the emergence of Kaiser Permanente as a medical care system, and the newspaper played up the opposition of fee-for-service physicians to prepaid group practice, ... it struck me as an innovative California phenomenon. In 1971, I was invited to a symposium on prepaid group practice in San Francisco sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and the Commonwealth Fund. I attended and was deeply impressed. Kaiser Permanente seemed to have found a rational solution to providing comprehensive benefits in an affordable way. A few weeks later Clifford Keene, MD, then president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan, asked me join the Boards of Directors. It seemed like a real adventure to me.”