If there is an Ernest Amory Codman of the past 30 years, a likely candidate would be physician Donald Berwick. In fact, in 1999, Berwick was given the annual Codman Award by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations in recognition of his work in quality improvement, a field Codman pioneered in the first half of the 20th century.
Berwick: Quality catalyst
Story originally published August 4, 2006
Awards and achievements have both come aplenty for Berwick, a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College and a cum laude graduate of Harvard Medical School who also holds a master's degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. In 1989, he authored "Continuous improvement as an ideal in healthcare," published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that has become a seminal article in the quality improvement movement, advocating the application to healthcare of quality improvement techniques used in other industries.
Since 1991, Berwick has served as co-founder, president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Boston, a not-for-profit that has campaigned for quality improvement efforts in healthcare in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East. The IHI's recently completed 100,000 Lives Campaign reported 3,100 participating hospitals had actually saved an estimated 122,300 lives.
This year, Berwick, 59, was voted by his peers onto the Modern Physician/Modern Healthcare list of the 50 most powerful physician-executives. An elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Berwick served as a member of the IOM's Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, which launched the slowly building revolution in healthcare quality improvement. The committee published in November 1999 To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System, which gave the healthcare industry one of its most totemic phrases: "At least 44,000, and perhaps as many as 98,000 Americans, die in hospitals each year as the result of medical errors."
In an interview with Modern Healthcare, Berwick's Harvard colleague and fellow physician researcher Lucian Leape, who helped calculate the oft-quoted death toll from hospital errors, said, "Nothing the IOM has ever done has had the impact of that report."
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