The MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago awarded the first MacLean Center Prize in Clinical Ethics and Health Outcomes to John E. Wennberg, MD, MPH, the Peggy Y. Thomson Professor for Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth Medical School and founding editor of The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care.
The $50,000 prize, awarded Nov. 12, 2011, at the center's 23rd annual conference, is the largest of its kind in the field of clinical medical ethics.
The Dartmouth Atlas examines the patterns of medical resource intensity and utilization in the United States, with an emphasis on end-of-life care, inequities in the Medicare reimbursement system and the underuse of preventive care.
The Atlas grew out of work Wennberg began in the early 1970s with colleague Alan Gittelsohn. They developed a strategy for studying the population-based rates of health resource allocation and utilizationhow the use of health care resources varies by location.
From the start, these studies have produced surprises, according to Kenneth Polonsky, dean of the Division of the Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, who introduced Wennberg at the prize ceremony.
First was the "striking differences," Polonsky said, in the amount of health care provided in different regions. This was soon followed by the realization that neither the amount nor the cost of care delivered correlated with good outcomes.
"While John Wennberg is regarded as a health services researcher," said Mark Siegler, MD, director of the MacLean Center, "his fundamental work on patient preferences and shared decision making highlight his contributions to the field of clinical medical ethics."
In 2007, the journal Health Affairs named Wennberg as "the most influential health policy researcher of the past 25 years."
Fitzhugh Mullan, MD, former director of the Bureau of Heal
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University of Chicago Medical Center