An ‘opportunity to serve’: Martin Gaynor appointed to federal antitrust position
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An ‘opportunity to serve’: Martin Gaynor appointed to federal antitrust position

“I’m just incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve the country and do something to help America." — Martin Gaynor

Martin Gaynor (Photo courtesy of Martin Gaynor)
Martin Gaynor (Photo courtesy of Martin Gaynor)

Martin S. “Marty” Gaynor — a Jewish Pittsburgher and the E.J. Barone University Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University — started diving into the economics of American health care while attending graduate school at Northwestern University in the early 1980s.

He was working on his doctorate at the time when he took a class in “industrial organization” with Professor Frederic M. Scherer, who, at one point, served as the chief economist for the Federal Trade Commission. (Since 2006, Scherer’s taught economics at Harvard University.)

Something clicked.

“You could see how things were relevant in the real world,” Gaynor told the Chronicle. “That got me very excited.”

Gaynor, a Cleveland-born father of three, went on to research and develop a focus on competition and incentives in health care, as well as antitrust policy. He received his B.A. from the University of California, San Diego, in 1977 and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1983.

Gaynor launched his teaching career as an economics professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1981 and taught at Johns Hopkins University for seven years before coming to Pittsburgh to work at CMU in 1995.

“By Pittsburgh standards, we’re the people down the street who are very nice who just moved in,” Gaynor quipped. “We’ve been here a very long time and we love it.”

A director of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics in 2013 and 2014, Gaynor recently was appointed to a rather new prestigious, part-time position — special adviser to Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division at the federal Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

“I have dedicated my career to researching health care costs and spending in the United States,” Gaynor said. “I’m just incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve the country and do something to help America. I know that sounds very Pollyanna-ish, but I mean it.”

In his role as special adviser, which was announced in November, Gaynor will advise the DOJ’s antitrust division on economic issues in antitrust enforcement while also working on what the DOJ calls “a whole-government approach to competition policy.”

Gaynor will continue to be based in Pittsburgh in his new role, which is scheduled to last until year’s end.

Gaynor, who takes part daily in morning minyan at Congregation Beth Shalom, sees parallels between his Jewish faith and his work.

“I believe, as a Jew … I am periodically given opportunities to help,” he said. “Jews are given these opportunities for mitzvahs. But, it’s our job to identify those mitzvahs and do them.”

He also knows how deeply his Jewish roots go in a growing climate of antisemitism. Gaynor, a member of Congregation Dor Hadash, survived the synagogue shooting on Oct. 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life building in Squirrel Hill.

“After 10/27/18, I’m very grateful to be here, but I carry with me an obligation to do my best and to do good,” he said.

Dan Leger understands that.

Another synagogue shooting survivor, Leger has studied Daf Yomi with Gaynor for the past four years in memory of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who was killed in the 2018 shooting, the most violent antisemitic attack in U.S. history.

“It’s always been very clear that Marty has a highly developed sense of principles about this — I think that’s just the way Marty is,” Leger said.

“I really don’t pretend to know what he’s doing,” he added. “But I think he’s the perfect person to solve the absolutely nightmarish landscape of health care.”

Brian Kovak, a CMU professor of economics and public policy, called Gaynor “a giant in his field” and “the central figure” on the study of how market structures affect cost and other factors in the U.S. health care sector.

“He’s clearly a really thoughtful person about everything he addresses,” said Kovak, who met Gaynor after coming to CMU in 2010.

In addition to serving on CMU’s faculty, Gaynor is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Social Insurance, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and an international research fellow at the University of Bristol.

But Gaynor said his faith is just as important as his curriculum vitae.

Congregation Beth Shalom Rabbi Seth Adelson agreed.

“Marty is truly and deeply committed to Jewish life and learning — he is not only a regular attendee at Beth Shalom’s weekday morning minyan but also frequently leads us in prayer,” Adelson said.
“He is also a role model for engaging with Jewish text in a thoughtful and contemporary way, currently participating in Daf Yomi, and his smile and joyful personality light up a room.” PJC

Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

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