Michael Roger McGarvey, a medical student activist, physician in internal medicine, community health advocate, civil servant, and senior executive and CMO for Blue Cross Blue Shield, was born September 29, 1941 in Spokane, Washington to Michael Martin McGarvey and Ruby Ramona Rogers. His family moved to the Los Angeles area where he attended John Burroughs High School in Burbank, California. He attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon (1959-1963; B.A.); producing his senior thesis: Assay of the crustacean diabetogenic hormone. He went on to attend the School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (1963-1967; M.D.).
During his medical education and training, McGarvey was involved in progressive and activist issues, such as civil rights and the anti-war movement. While attending USC, he was instrumental in the foundation of the Student Health Organizations (SHO), a collective of students from schools in medicine, dentistry, nursing, and social across the United States that sought to improve health care services for underserved communities. In the autumn of 1965, twenty-five schools first assembled for a 2-day meeting at the University of Chicago. This led to a fellowship program in community health held in California in the summer of 1966, or the “Summer Health Project of 1966.” The USC College of Medicine was a co-sponsor for the project, along with the Student Medical Conference of Los Angeles (USC-SMC). The fellowship supported the work of medical, dental, nursing, social work students from 40 institutions in 11 states, working in poverty areas in California. According to McGarvey, “each interdisciplinary team of students consulted with a local, community-based preceptor,” giving these projects a grass-roots, community-driven voice. Student teams were required to write a final report documenting their project, including purpose, methods, accomplishments and problems encountered. These reports were assembled into a final report for each summer project. The 2nd Assembly of Student Health Organizations was held at the Bronx Community College of Nursing, co-sponsored by the College of Nursing and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Encounter magazine was the official publication for that assembly. Plans for three student health projects, in New York, Chicago and California were launched at that meeting. Subsequent assemblies were held in Detroit (1968 February 22-25), Philadelphia (1968 November 7-10) and Boston (1969), each generating plans for additional summer Student Health Projects which were funded with federal funds from the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW).
McGarvey was also involved in a related organization, the Student Medical Conference (SMC), a professional organization based in Los Angeles for students in the “healing arts.” He sat on the Interim Executive Committee and served as Chairman (1965). SMC was established by students from the USC School of Medicine, California College of Medicine, Loma Linda University, and the Los Angeles County General Hospital School of Nursing. SMC co-sponsored a fellowship program in community health, held in California in summer of 1966 with the USC School of Medicine, known as (USC-SMC), and also a product of the First Assembly of SHO at the University of Chicago.
McGarvey and William G. Bronston (class of 1965, USC School of Medicine) presented their paper, “A Treatise on Reformation: The Health Student Movement,” at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions on May 17, 1967, outlining the context and development of the SHO. He also sat on the Committee for the USC Medical Student Forum, a group which sponsored symposia to “augment existing academic medical studies to deal with controversial issues related to the doctor’s role in modern society.” Topics included abortion, birth control, psychiatry, medication, and LSD with speakers such as Thomas Szasz, Alan Watts, and Alan Guttmacher.
After SHO leaders began receiving attention for their anti-war stances, the fear of cuts in federal funding prompted the founding of The Institute for the Study of Health and Society in December, 1968 and incorporated in August 1969. It held a similar purpose to SHO: to promote the interdisciplinary approach to societal problems in health care, environment, population, drug abuse, racial discrimination, and professional education by developing the planning, management and operational competencies for the creation of inter-professional service systems; and provide opportunities and resources for young professionals to experiment with new roles emphasizing public accountability. This organization was named by McGarvey, who sat on the Board of Directors. Christian N. Ramsey, Jr. was President and Edward D. Martin was Executive Director. Of note was the conference “The Environment and the Developing Professional” held in October 1969, in which plans for the first Earth Day (April 22,1970) were conceptualized.
As a medical student, McGarvey was involved in social issues regarding the quality and availability of health services to poor and underserved communities, and encouraging minority admissions to medical schools. He carried this point of view into his professional roles as a physician. He served as Intern (1967-1968) and Resident in Internal Medicine (1972-1974) at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Lincoln Hospital—a public hospital located in the South Bronx, New York City.
After completing his internship at Lincoln Hospital, McGarvey entered the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) (active duty: July 1, 1968-July 10, 1970). He served as Special Assistant for Youth Affairs to Joseph T. English, Administrator of the Health Services and Mental Health Administration (HSMHA) in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and was later appointed on October 1, 1969 as the Health Services and Mental Health Administration (HSMHA) Liaison Officer to review youth proposals for funding. During his service, he participated in a group--the “Superverts”--working towards the establishment of the National Health Service Corps. It was eventually established by the Emergency Health Personnel Act of 1970. He received an honorable discharge from the USPHS with the rank of Surgeon.
After leaving the USPHS, he gained more experience in the administration of hospitals and healthcare services in his role as Executive Assistant to the President (July 1970-June 1972) at the newly formed New York Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), the agency that ran New York City’s public hospitals. Joseph T. English was the first President of the Corporation.
After ending his public health service, McGarvey held positions at Hunter College of the City University of New York (Vice President for Health Affairs and Professor 1973-1978); Office of Health Systems Management in the Department of Health, State of New York (Chief Medical Officer; 1978-1981); Medical Liaison with the Department of Psychiatry at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center of New York (1981-1983). His corporate positions included Vice President and Corporate Vice President at Empire Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of New York (July 1983-December 1990); Managing Director at Alexander & Alexander Consulting Group (1990-1994); and Senior Vice President & Chief Medical Officer at Horizon Blue Cross / Blue Shield of New Jersey (1994-2000).
McGarvey served on the boards of the New York Academy of Medicine, The Greater New York Hospital Association, the New York Business Group on Health, the New York State Society of Internal Medicine, and the American Medical Review Research Center. By 2001, McGarvey focused his career in executive consulting for some of his former employers, along with the Commonwealth Fund, The United Hospital Fund, and Harvard University.