John Wennberg Honored With Distinguished Professorship

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Read the full story, published by The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.

Dartmouth 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.

John Wennberg and Phil Hanlon

President Phil Hanlon ’77, right, announced the distinguished professorship October 14, 2013, at a conference in honor of John Wennberg, left. (Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox)

“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 President Phil Hanlon ’77 in announcing the distinguished professorship on October 14, 2013, at a conference in Wennberg’s honor.

Forty years ago, John “Jack” Wennberg directly challenged the medical community when he and Alan Gittelsohn published in the journal Science an article on geographic variations in health care. 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 whether more care always led to better outcomes.

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.

Wennberg founded The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice in 1988 as the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences (CECS).