(Story updated at 5:19 p.m. ET)
Dr. Richard Kronick, 63, will step down as director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. He will return to the University of California at San Diego, where he became a faculty member in 1991. Kronick's resignation is effective March 18.
Kronick has led AHRQ, a division of HHS, since August 2013, when he replaced Dr. Carolyn Clancy. His priorities involved producing evidence to drive a higher quality, safer, more affordable healthcare system in the U.S.
Kronick's work on developing quality measures has been instrumental to AHRQ's focus on delivery system reform and the goal of creating an empowered and educated healthcare consumer, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in comments posted Thursday.
"His leadership in developing that work was never more important than it was in the past year when AHRQ's funding was at risk," she said.
Kronick led the agency through a tough period last year when House Republicans tried, but failed, to withdraw funding and essentially close the unit.
Focusing the agency's work and generating support will continue to be a challenge for future directors, he said.
“We've done a good job. But as a relatively small agency in a very crowded space, it has been difficult to get the message out about the impact of the work that we do.”
In December, Kronick was among a panel of HHS experts to announce that about 2.1 million fewer patients were harmed in U.S. hospitals from infections, adverse drug events and other conditions since 2010. He and other leaders acknowledged, however, that improvements were not equal across all areas of patient harms.
“There are many problems in the healthcare system,” he said. Despite the challenges, there has been remarkable improvement and AHRQ has played a pivotal role.
Kronick first joined HHS in January 2010 as deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation in the Office of Health Policy. In that role, he led research into policies around insurance, public health, healthcare delivery, and financing.
In 2014, Kronick was recognized for the first time as one of Modern Healthcare's 100 Most Influential People. Later that year, he was named a member of the National Academy of Medicine for his contribution to the field of healthcare. New members are chosen for outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.
Before joining HHS, Kronick conducted health policy research in academia and federal and state government.
He served as professor and chief of the division of healthcare sciences in the family and preventive medicine department at the University of California at San Diego. He worked at the institution for just over 18 years before moving to HHS, according to his LinkedIn page.
He also worked as director of policy and reimbursement for the Medicaid division of the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare. In the early 1990s, he served as a policy adviser to the Clinton administration.
Dr. Sharon Arnold will be the acting director of AHRQ. She is currently deputy director.