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Wennberg Steps Down at CECS

July 02, 2007
Lebanon, NH

Jack Wennberg, MD, MPH
Dr. John E. "Jack" Wennberg

Dr. John E. "Jack" Wennberg, MD, MPH, known for his pioneering work in evaluating medical practice, has stepped down as director of the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences (CECS) at Dartmouth which he founded in 1988. Dr. James N. Weinstein of Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), has been named his successor.

For more than 40 years, Wennberg has studied and documented striking variations in health care delivery across the United States, concluding that where a patient lives determines the amount of medical care he or she receives. His work is frequently cited as evidence of the lack of a scientific basis for most medical practice. His recent research has focused on ways to document the outcomes, or results, of various medical practices and communicate this information to patients. With his Harvard colleague, Dr. Albert Mulley, M.D., he founded the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, an organization that works to promote patient involvement in medical care decisions.

Donald Berwick, cofounder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, recently called the CECS work "the most important health service research of the century." Wennberg is equally known for the distinguished and internationally-recognized team he has built at CECS. The Center's faculty members are physicians, epidemiologists, economists, statisticians, psychologists, and sociologists.

Dr. Weinstein, named the new director of CECS, left an endowed professorship at the University of Iowa to join the Wennberg team in 1996. "I saw an opportunity here at Dartmouth, with Dr. Wennberg's vision, to look at health care from a unique viewpoint. Jack has been a mentor who has nurtured my work and ideas into reality."

Wennberg is perhaps best known for the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, a series of reports he and his colleagues at CECS have written on the status of medical care delivery in the United State. "The Atlas has been an excellent way to get the word out about the state of health care," Wennberg said. "We've been gratified to see the attention the Atlas has been getting and how it's helping Americans understand the fundamental structural problems in medicine."

Using Medicare data, the Atlas has demonstrated striking differences in the amount of care patients receive - and the resulting costs - depending simply on where they live. It has also revealed consistently that more medical spending and more health care services are not associated with better outcomes for patients. In fact, patients in high-care, high-cost areas fare worse than those living in areas where more conservative care is the norm. In the most recent Atlas, Wennberg and his colleagues conclude that "the Medicare system could reduce spending by at least 30 percent while improving the medical care of the most severely ill Americans."

Wennberg is a graduate of Stanford University and McGill Medical School and is a member of the Institute of Medicine. He holds the Peggy Y. Thompson Chair in the Evaluative Clinical Sciences and is a Professor of Medicine and of Community and Family Medicine. The author of hundreds of articles, he will continue to work on his research at Dartmouth.

More information about the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences, the Dartmouth Atlas, and the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making can be found at the following sites:

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