Director's Corner: Remembering Rob

  | by Ann Hwang, MD   |  SHARE f t
Director's Corner: Remembering Rob

Rob Restuccia speaking at the Center’s launch event at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C., Jan. 15, 2016.

Rob Restuccia was the reason I came to Community Catalyst.

I met Rob when I was working in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services in Massachusetts. In the aftermath of the challenging rollout of our state’s health insurance exchange, Rob was one of a handful of people we turned to as we navigated through that difficult time.

In a room of health care executives and state government leaders, Rob stood out. He seemed to know everyone and be trusted by all parties. He listened more than he spoke, and when he spoke, it was quietly and with purpose – to share vital information from the national scene, to offer connections to others that might be useful, to help navigate a group to consensus.

Here at Community Catalyst, it was Rob’s vision that made the Center possible. He was always encouraging us to look ahead, think about what was around the corner and plan for that future. Even while our organization was fully deployed in the challenging and urgent fight to defend Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, Rob emphasized the importance of thinking long-term and acting proactively, to craft the positive vision of health care that we know is possible.

Rob did this better than anyone. Starting in 2003, he worked with Robert Master, MD to create what ultimately became Commonwealth Care Alliance, a health plan for people with complex medical, social and behavioral needs. In doing so, he broke new ground for a consumer advocacy organization and also broke with a common mindset among some consumer organizations, which tended to view health systems and health plans as adversaries rather than potential collaborators.

In the op-ed Rob wrote for the The Boston Globe in the last weeks of his life, he identified what he saw as the keys to success. He believed: “…change happens when ordinary people become empowered advocates who can eloquently articulate their stories of hardships and then translate their experiences into compelling arguments for changing the system;” and, “rather than view those in power as adversaries, it is far more effective to see them as partners with advocates and consumers.”

We all miss Rob dearly. But it is my hope that the Center carries on these tenets of Rob’s vision and continues the march toward universal, affordable, equitable, quality health care that was his life’s work.

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Thank you for your kind notes of support during this time. We list below links to some additional stories about Rob's lifetime of work fighting for health justice.

The Boston Globe published this appreciation of Rob’s life on March 5, 2019.

WBUR radio, Boston, CommonHealth Feb. 25, 2019 audio profile and interview with Rob.

A remembrance by Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief, Alan Weil

POLITICO Pulse “Names in the News”