hen President-elect Donald Trump summoned a small group of national health care executives to his Florida home in December, the group included a less familiar name: Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, a primary care physician who is a prominent figure in Palm Beach.
Moskowitz told STAT that he knows Trump through the Palm Beach community and that he helped put together the group that met with the president-elect, which included the heads of the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Mayo Clinic, and Partners HealthCare.
“He’s familiar with me, and I’m familiar with him,” Moskowitz said.
Moskowitz said that when Trump wanted to have a meeting with America’s health care leaders, he was called in to wrangle together participants. He declined to speak in detail about his relationship with Trump or say whether he is a member of Trump’s opulent Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.
“The team knows that I can be expected to decide who would be best to bring to the meeting,” Moskowitz said.
Few details have emerged from the meeting — a transition official told reporters that participants discussed veterans health issues, and Dr. David Torchiana, the Partners CEO, said in a brief interview with a Boston Globe reporter that the group also discussed biomedical research.
At Trump’s news conference last week, he said that two of the participants — Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Ike Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel Entertainment — have been “very involved” in veterans health issues.
Moskowitz didn’t want to get into the details during his interview with STAT.
“The four people who were there were there to provide correct responses to [Trump’s] excellent questions,” Moskowitz said. He declined to say what those questions were.
Moskowitz has kept out of the spotlight; he’s not a university professor or a policy wonk, but a physician who has been practicing for decades and made a name for himself.
“He is one of the favored general practitioners in town,” said Steven Stolman, an author and designer who lives in Palm Beach. When Stolman was looking for a family doctor back in the ’90s, Moskowitz was recommended as “the family physician emeritus of Palm Beach.” (Stolman ended up choosing a different doctor for financial reasons.)
Moskowitz sits on the boards of medical nonprofits alongside billionaires and counts among his patients the owner of the Boston Bruins, Jeremy Jacobs. Moskowitz told STAT that he has personal relationships with many CEOs of medical organizations in the country.
But even his son said in an interview that he was surprised that Moskowitz was in a meeting with Trump.
“He didn’t tell me he was doing this meeting, so I didn’t know,” said Aaron Moskowitz. “I know he’s met Donald Trump previously over the years. I didn’t think that they knew each other really, really well. I find it entertaining at least.”
The elder Moskowitz said that he didn’t know why he was chosen to help with the meeting, that he has no official role with the transition team, and that he doesn’t know whether his expertise will be called on again. Moskowitz didn’t give money to Trump’s campaign, according to federal records, and he twice contributed to Democratic congressional contenders.
He’s more well-known in medicine than politics; STAT spoke with nearly a dozen of his acquaintances, including practicing doctors, business executives, and a former university president, all of whom described Moskowitz in nothing short of glowing terms: “very highly respected,” “really just quite brilliant,” and “a remarkable physician.”
Moskowitz, 68, got his medical degree at the University of Miami and completed his internship and residency at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y. He’s board certified in internal medicine.
Over the years, he has been involved in a variety of medical projects — an iPhone app to help patients find the closest emergency care, a website that shows the nearest clinical trials, and a registry to track medical-device safety issues — while maintaining a private practice.
Dr. Kenneth Beer, a West Palm Beach dermatologist who considers himself a friend and colleague of Moskowitz, said that the doctor “has one of the most dedicated practices of anybody I’ve ever seen. He’s available for his patients 24/7.”
Beer said that, because many leaders in corporate America have homes in Palm Beach, doctors like Moskowitz and himself end up taking care of powerful patients, including CEOs and major hospital donors.
One of Moskowitz’s colleagues said he knew about the Trump meeting at least a week in advance. Dr. Steven Rosenberg, a West Palm Beach dermatologist, had been kicking around a health care reform proposal for the past few decades. (It is summarized on his website and a Change.org petition that has more than 100 supporters.)
At the urging of a patient, Rosenberg said he decided it would be a good idea to try to get the plan in front of Trump. That was in mid-December.
So Rosenberg called Moskowitz, figuring that his well-connected colleague would know someone close to the president-elect.
It just so happened that Moskowitz was scheduled to meet with the health care executives and Trump about a week later. Rosenberg said Moskowitz took the proposal to the meeting. Moskowitz couldn’t be reached for comment on Rosenberg’s story.
When a STAT reporter first called Rosenberg, the doctor expected that it was someone, perhaps from Trump’s team, following up on his plan. Rosenberg said he heard that the team was “interested,” but he didn’t know who would be calling him or when.