For Release: October 16, 2013
Contact: Annmarie Christensen 603-653-0897

Dartmouth's John E. Wennberg Honored With Distinguished Professorship Endowed in his Name

Dr. Jack Wennberg

Hanover, NH—Dartmouth College has established the John E. Wennberg Distinguished Professorship in honor of the founder of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice and The Dartmouth Atlas at the Geisel School of Medicine.

"There could be no better way to salute Jack and the pioneering work he's done in helping define the map of American health care," said Philip J. Hanlon, president of Dartmouth College, in announcing the Distinguished Professorship Oct. 14 at a conference in Wennberg's honor, entitled Location as Destiny.

Forty years ago, Dr. John "Jack" Wennberg directly challenged the medical community when he and Dr. Alan Gittelsohn published an article on geographic variations in health care, in the journal Science. Their paper revealed that much of what doctors do was based less on science than on professional opinion and the capacity of the local health-care system. Given the magnitude of the variations they had uncovered, it wasn't clear if more care always led to better outcomes.

"This distinguished professorship is an honor worthy of Jack's truly trailblazing career in population health and outcomes research," said Chip Souba, Dean of Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine. "His work started the national discussion about healthcare delivery quality and efficiency, and it continues to help shape current healthcare reform efforts in America."

Wennberg's findings motivated a generation of researchers to explore the causes of variations in practice and spending. The subsequent research led to the current focus on aligning both practice and policy toward the goals of improving health, lowering costs, and ensuring that patients are well informed and that their needs are met. In 1980, he joined the faculty at Dartmouth, where he found a collaborative culture and colleagues willing to ask tough questions about health care.

"Our faculty consists of highly engaged, really smart people, asking tough questions about health care and - just as importantly - devising solutions," said Elliott Fisher, director of The Dartmouth Institute.

This distinguished professorship is an honor worthy of Jack's truly trailblazing career in population health and outcomes research.

— Chip Souba Dean of Dartmouth's
Geisel School of Medicine

Wennberg founded The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice in 1988 as the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences (CECS). Among its 25 years of accomplishments, it has established a new discipline and educational focus in the Evaluative Clinical Sciences, introduced and advanced the concept of shared decision-making for patients, demonstrated unwarranted variation in the practice and outcomes of medical treatment, developed the first comprehensive examination of US health care variations (The Dartmouth Atlas), and has shown that more health care is not necessarily better care.

The rigor, persistence, and healthy skepticism with which Wennberg and his colleagues asked important and challenging questions about health care are imbedded in the culture of The Dartmouth Institute today. And Wennberg's research, and that of his successors, is respected and cited widely as a guidepost for reforming health care in the U.S. and around the world.

The John E. Wennberg Distinguished Professorship was endowed through the generosity of 25 donors, many who are leaders in the field of health care. An endowed professorship is the highest honor awarded by Dartmouth to a faculty member at The Dartmouth Institute and provides a stable source of income to enable a professor to freely pursue research, teaching, and other academic activities. This distinguished professorship will be awarded to one of the most senior professors at TDI to support his or her work--and the dissemination of The Institute's work in order to inform health policy reform and advance health-care research and evaluation.

On Oct. 16-18, the third annual Wennberg International Collaborative will be held at Dartmouth College, which will bring 120 invited participants from around the world to discuss variations in health care in their various countries.

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