Cleve Killingsworth ‘75 envisions better health care for more people. At a time when more than 40 million U.S. residents lack health insurance, the president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts believes that the real problem-and its solutions-lies with skyrocketing costs.
“It has been estimated that at least 30 percent of the $1.9 trillion spent on health care annually in the United States is wasted through medical errors, misuse, and overuse,” says Killingsworth. “That’s outrageous, especially when you consider that so many people cannot get the health care they need.”
The solution, he says, requires collaboration. So he works with a cross section of industry players – hospitals, physicians, and other insurers – on initiatives that, for example, stem prescription errors and unnecessary surgeries. “Not only do needless procedures waste money, they also carry risks,” he says. “America must learn that quality care is not about more care-it’s about receiving evidence-based, proven medicine.”
The rigorous analytic habits underlying his convictions about health care were instilled at MIT. “In many ways, MIT is the single most important reason I have been able to take my career in this direction,” says Killingsworth, who earned an SB in management at MIT and an MPH from Yale in 1976. “I had to work very hard at MIT, but through that difficult experience, I became grounded in a fact-based approach for thinking about the world.”
He also finds collaborative strength through the Executive Leadership Council, an independent nonprofit that he helped found in 1986. The ELC provides African-American executives with guidance, camaraderie, and networking opportunities. The group’s first meeting was moving, he says. “There was a lot of energy and power in that experience for all of us. The ELC decries the notion that there are only a few of us out here.” Indeed, the organization’s 400-plus members, all top executives, represent more than 200 of the country’s largest corporations.
Killingsworth’s wife, Daren Chentow, also values helping people. The retired IT executive coaches teenage girls at the Spectrum Unit of the Massachusetts Facility for Youth Corrections in Dorchester. Killingsworth and Chentow, who live in Chestnut Hill, MA, have four children.
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