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WV’s DC delegation supports Clay Marsh’s nomination to National Advisory Council for Healthcare Research and Quality

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia’s full Congressional delegation has put its endorsement behind the nomination of WU’s Dr. Clay Marsh to serve on the National Advisory Council for Healthcare Research and Quality (NACHRQ).

Marsh is WVU’s chancellor and executive dean for Health Sciences and serves as Gov. Jim Justice’s COVID-19 czar.

NACHRQ is a 21-member panel, the D.C. delegation said, with appointed members serving three-year terms. It provides varied perspectives on the questions that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s research should address in order to promote improvements in the quality, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness of clinical practice. AHRQ is focused on making healthcare safer, more accessible, equitable and affordable for patients.

The delegation – Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, and Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller – sent a letter to AHRQ Director Robert Otto Valdez expressing their support of WVU President Gordon Gee’s nomination of Marsh.

They wrote, “Dr. Marsh would bring relevant and extensive healthcare expertise and experience to the advisory council. With more than 35 years as a physician, researcher, professor, and administrator, Dr. Marsh is familiar with the opportunities and challenges of healthcare from a variety of perspectives.”

In his WVU role, they said, “Dr. Marsh leads a large and complex academic health sciences enterprise that serves the needs of West Virginia and the surrounding region.” As COVID czar, “His appearances as part of daily government briefings during the last 2½ years helped to spread useful information and reassure the public during a difficult and uncertain time. We are confident that he would bring his commitment to this vital land-grant mission to the development of a national health services research agenda.”

Marsh offered some comments about the delegation’s support. “Certainly having the opportunity on a prestigious group like this advisory council … is an honor. “ The position would align well with his roles at WVU and as czar.

“We see challenges all the time, in Appalachia and rural West Virginia and America that deal with health care access and communication and quality issues,” he said. “If I was privileged enough to be chosen to serve on this group, certainly trying to share some of those observations and experiences that I’ve had,” here and at Ohio State and returning here, “those may be able to help not only West Virginia but rural states like West Virginia that have rural parts of their states and rural populations.”

Marsh cited some Princeton research relating to deaths from despair and hopelessness before COVID, based in the Ohio River Valley and Appalachia. Job losses, lack of education and the opioid epidemic also had a central role in those problems in West Virginia. “Rural America has struggled with certain things much differently than urban America has.”

On the other hand are issues affecting well being, hope, safety, community and purpose, he said. “All these things do interact.” AHRQ may have a foot in hospitals but it also needs a foot in communities to consider all those issues.

Rural and urban America can learn lessons form each other – in similarities and differences, he said, “to improve not only health care but to really help people live better lives, higher levels of well being, more fulfillment with their lives.” He hopes he could contribute to that by serving on the council.

Their letter from the delegation notes that the Federal Register Request for Nominations notice indicates the Department seeks a broad geographic representation. “Dr. Marsh knows well the healthcare problems faced in the Appalachian region, which extends through parts of 13 states stretching from Mississippi to New York and is home to 26 million people. Dr. Marsh was born, raised, educated, and has worked in West Virginia, the only state located entirely within Appalachia.

“Addressing disparities in healthcare access, affordability, and quality are urgent issues throughout Appalachia,” they said. “Dr. Marsh’s personal and professional familiarity with Appalachia would be an important voice to the advisory council’s deliberations. His serving as a member of the NACHRQ would also serve to promote the exchange of healthcare best practices and lessons learned among similar regions across the nation.

Asked about the nomination, Gee said, “Dr. Marsh has enthusiastically embraced our unique opportunity and obligation as a public, land-grant, research university to serve the needs of the people of West Virginia. He has led West Virginia University and the state to new heights in fields as varied as neuroscience research, cancer treatment, children’s health, and heart and vascular care.

“The pandemic,” Gee said, “has reminded us that the importance of working effectively at the intersection of public health, public policy and public attitudes is a vital part of health care research and quality, and as the state’s COVID-19 czar, Dr. Marsh has lent his expertise communicating with the public and translating research into policy.

Gee concluded, “I strongly belief Dr. Marsh’s perspectives as a West Virginian and as an Appalachian would be invaluable additions to the council as it helps to set priorities for a national health services research agenda.”

Manchin’s spokeswoman Erin Heeter said that NACHRQ members are appointed by Becerra. Timing for the selection is to be determined.

The federal register says that seven current members’ terms will expire in November. The Council meets in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area approximately three times a year to provide broad guidance to the Secretary and AHRQ’s Director on the direction of and programs undertaken by AHRQ. Seven individuals will be selected to serve beginning with the meeting in the spring of 2023.

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