In nearly five decades of work, legendary health care researcher John E. “Jack” Wennberg has reshaped the way patients and health care providers measure the value of health care. He is the founder and director emeritus of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Peggy Y. Thomson Professor in the Evaluative Clinical Sciences Emeritus at the Geisel School of Medicine.
Wennberg’s breakthrough insights are most notably represented in the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, which examines the patterns of medical resource intensity and utilization in the United States. Since its founding by Wennberg in 1996, the Atlas project has reported on patterns of end-of-life care, inequities in the Medicare reimbursement system, and the underuse of preventative medicine, among other topic areas.
This extensive research started small. In 1967, supported by a grant from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, Wennberg compared medical treatments in tiny, similar Vermont towns. To his surprise, he discovered that there were dramatically different surgery rates, despite the towns’ demographic homogeneity. Though Wennberg’s findings were initially ignored by medical publications, Science magazine published the article, “Small area variations in health care delivery” in 1973, and a new type of health care research was “born.”
In 1988, Wennberg founded The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (then the Center for Evaluative and Clinical Sciences), recruiting an international body of scholars and health care researchers to study this new field. In 2013, Dartmouth created the John E. Wennberg Distinguished Professorship. The inaugural holder of the professorship is Elliott S. Fisher, Wennberg’s longtime colleague and the director of The Dartmouth Institute since 2013.
Wennberg earned a BA from Stanford University, an MD from McGill Medical School, and an MPH from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science and the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars. He has received numerous awards, including the National Academy of Medicine’s 2008 Gustav O. Lienhard Award, the Association for Health Services Research's Distinguished Investigator Award, the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award in Clinical Medicine, and the Baxter Foundation's Health Services Research Prize.
In 2005, the readers of Modern Physician, Modern Heathcare’s sister publication, voted Wennberg one of the 50 Most Powerful Physician Executives in Healthcare. He is the author of numerous research articles, many of which are in his anthology, as well as of the book “Tracking Medicine: A Researcher’s Quest to Understand Health Care,” which provides a framework for understanding and remedying the U.S. health care crisis.
Martha M. Smith
Wennberg DE, Sharp SM, Bevan G, Skinner JS, Gottlieb DJ, Wennberg JE
BMJ|2014 Apr 10
Health Policy|2014 Jan
Wennberg JE, Staiger DO, Sharp SM, Gottlieb DJ, Bevan G, McPherson K, Welch HG
BMJ|2013 Feb 21
Bynum JP, Andrews A, Sharp S, McCollough D, Wennberg JE
Health Aff (Millwood)|2011 May
BMJ|2011 Mar 17
The Current Status of Practice Variation Research
This short course will focus on readings from the book, Tracking Medicine, by John E. (Jack) Wennberg. Wennberg reviews his and his colleagues' work on practice variations, beginning with small area variation in Vermont, extending through efforts to evaluate the reasons behind variation in surgical procedures, and concluding with the more recent work associated with overuse of supply sensitive care as described in the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care. The course includes significant time for discussion and interaction.
Core Requirement for MPH and MS