Emerging Health Leaders: Foluso Agboola, MBBS, M.P.H., of ICER

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MHE Publication, MHE October 2021, Volume 3, Issue 10

Foluso Agboola is one of 13 up-and-coming health leaders featured in this annual Managed Healthcare Executive series.

Foluso Agboola, MBBS, M.P.H., vice president of research, Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) in Boston

Raised in Nigeria, I earned my medical degree from the University of Ilorin. My interest in evidence-based policy led me to pursue an M.P.H. in quantitative methods at Harvard. I’ve generated new evidence that’s influenced policy at both Harvard and Mass General Brigham. At ICER, I’ve risen from research scientist to my current role as VP of research, where I’ve played a key role in many ICER assessments, and I’ve had the privilege to mentor other researchers and health policy experts. As an immigrant, my path wasn’t always easy, but each step has helped me develop resiliency and equipped me with new skills to make me more effective.

Who has had the greatest influence
on your life?

My mom. Although her formal education was minimal, her vision, hard work, commitment to excellence, and tenacity of purpose helped her build a successful fashion business and school in my Nigerian hometown. I’m forever grateful for the example she set, teaching me to never quit and to give my best to whatever my hands find to do.

Why did you decide to pursue a career
in healthcare?

At 13, I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, and I needed to wear a scoliosis brace for 23 hours each day for four years. My initial despondency gradually turned into a knowledge-seeking adventure that would forever shape the rest of my life. Relentlessly, I conducted extensive research on scoliosis seeking out all relevant material and questioning several physicians along the way. I learned more than just about scoliosis. I developed a keen interest in medical practice, and in how good evidence can improve lives.

Which career accomplishment has given you the greatest satisfaction?

I currently work with a diverse mix of brilliant, talented people who are passionate about improving the U.S. healthcare system. My path hasn’t always been easy, but several mentors have helped me along the way. I’m particularly excited about ICER’s new fellowship program to train new experts in health technology assessment.

What has your organization’s role been in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines?

COVID-19 has increased public awareness around evidence, models, health equity, fair pricing, and fair access. I’m proud ICER played an important role in evaluating the evidence and price of emerging COVID-19 therapeutics and that we spurred a national conversation about drug pricing during a pandemic.

What would be the best way to reduce healthcare inequities in the U.S.?

I dream of a health system where everyone has sustainable access to high-value care. ICER helps realize this dream by pressuring drugmakers to price drugs in alignment with how well those drugs improve patients’ lives and pressuring U.S. payers to reward fair pricing with fair access. Further, my research often reveals how little information exists about the potential differences in a therapy’s safety and effectiveness across different patient populations. If the U.S. is going to reduce health inequities, clinical trial sponsors need to start recruiting far more diverse populations.

Name a book or article that everyone in healthcare should read.

Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal” is a beautiful and thought-provoking book, reminding us that everyone will grow old and die someday. and that we can do a better job of taking care of the elderly.