WellesleyWeston Magazine

FALL 2013

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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an interview with joe avellone The son and grandson of doctors, Avellone was the oldest of six children. His father was a ward. "Surgery is a lot of the same," he says. surgeon and his mother a nurse anesthetist. Trading the shore of Lake Erie for the foothills of "The reason it's safe is because you try to do New Hampshire's White Mountains, Avellone attended Dartmouth College. He then went on to it the same way the best you can every time; Harvard Medical School, the only one of his siblings to become a doctor. whereas management and policy is different, Avellone completed his surgical residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. it's ever changing." While other residents would take a year off to conduct medical research, Avellone spent his Hooking up with a partner and venture break earning a master's degree in public administration at Harvard's Kennedy School of capitalist, he launched a half-dozen free- Government. That experience whetted his appetite for health care management and politics, standing health clinics in Greater Boston. but he wasn't interested in sitting behind a desk writing policy papers. They hoped this would be the start of a chain Along with Sandy, whom he married in 1975, Avellone moved up to Concord, New of clinics that would offer primary and pre- Hampshire, and joined a multi-specialty group as a general surgeon. He says surgery appealed ventive care as well as a cost-effective alter- to him because he could achieve immediate, tangible results. While his day job was practicing native to the hospital emergency room. But medicine, Avellone plunged into the choppy waters of health care policy by serving on state after a few years, the clinics were just break- study commissions. He eventually came to realize that while he would miss the excitement of ing even. It was tough to lure patients away healing people, he could have more impact and find even greater challenges outside the surgical from the area's prestigious hospitals and to manage on insurance reimbursements for primary care. "I had a flawed business model and learned it the hard way," Avellone says. "That taught me to be much more careful analyzing things before jumping in with the enthusiasm that I did." Perhaps, he says, the idea was just ahead of its time. Timing wasn't particularly propitious for Avellone during his seven years at Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of Massachusetts, where he rose to chief operating officer at a time when the insurer was squeezed by higher medical costs and increased competition. He says he decided to leave at the end of 1996, frustrated that the We l l e s l e y We s t o n M a g a z i n e | f a l l 2 0 1 3 company was shifting its focus away from managed care and toward more flexible, but ultimately more costly plans. "My interest is health policy, public policy," he says. "I wasn't so enthralled in just chasing market share." 66

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