Last week, the Institute of Medicine presented its 2008 Gustav O. Lienhard Award to John E. Wennberg for his contributions to evidence-based medicine, outcomes research and informed patient choice.
Dr. Wennberg is the Peggy Y. Thomson Chair for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences and Founder and Director Emeritus of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.
Wennberg became a household name in the 1980s when he and colleague Alan Gitlesohn began documenting marked variations in procedure rates from region to region, state to state and even physician to physician in the same locale. Wennberg was able to show that his findings were driven by physician preferences which were in turn based on their own anecdotal experiences rather than evidence from scientific trials. This research helped drive us toward evidence-based medicine and served as an impetus for legislation that created the Agency for Health Care Quality and Research.
Wennberg also founded, along with Al Mulley, the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, a non-profit organization that provides objective scientific information to patients so they can participate more effectively in their own care.
Wennberg is the 23rd recipient of the Lienhard Award, which includes a medal and a $25,000 prize. The Award program is funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Lienhard was chairman of the Foundation’s board for sixteen years beginning in 1971.