It’s not too common to be both a surgeon and a prolific researcher and scholar. But Thomas Hwang, a urologic surgery resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has published more than 80 papers on regulatory and payment policy that span multiple technologies and countries, including the United States, Europe, and Japan.
Hwang, it’s clear, has a unique passion for policymaking. He’s fascinated by how government agencies build from the ground up regulations that make laws work, after the drama on Capitol Hill ends.
“Ninety percent of what people think are laws are actually rules,” he said after a shift in the operating room.
During Hwang’s sophomore year at Harvard, he attended a lecture by the legal scholar Cass Sunstein that introduced him to the glamor of public notice-and-comment rulemaking. Soon after, he landed an internship at the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, took a gap year, and found himself metroing daily to downtown Washington from the Maryland suburbs with a binder full of proposed Obamacare regulations.
After undergrad, he went into finance, hoping to find a sense of purpose by focusing on the field of health care. That failed. Despite working up to 100 hours a week, he spent his free time pouring over regulatory research. So he dropped finance and went to Harvard Medical School, graduating summa cum laude, keeping up his research all the while.
Hwang’s current research focuses on using AI to speed policy changes for patients with cancer. Regulators often struggle to keep pace with technological advances, but Hwang hopes AI will be different.
“With AI, there’s an opportunity to be forward-looking,” he said.
— John Wilkerson