Head of Medicare and Medicaid Resigns: Who Is Donald Berwick?

Friday, November 25, 2011
Donald Berwick, the Obama administration’s top official in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, is resigning his post.
He didn’t have much choice.
Nominated by President Barack Obama in April 2010, Berwick never received Senate confirmation as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, due to opposition from Republicans who chose him to be a symbol of Obama’s health care reform. The president gave Berwick a temporary recess appointment on July 7, 2010, but that was due to expire at the end of this year.
Born in 1946 in New York City, Berwick was raised in Moodus, Connecticut. He was inspired to become a doctor by his father, who worked as a small-town general practitioner. His mother died when he was young.
Educated at Harvard, Berwick received his bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude) from Harvard College, his Master of Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and his MD (cum laude) from the Harvard Medical School. He completed his medical residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston.
Berwick began his career as a pediatrician at Harvard Community Health Plan, where in 1983 he became the plan’s first vice president of quality-of-care measurement.
From 1987 through 1991, he co-founded and served as co-principal investigator for the National Demonstration Project on Quality Improvement in Health Care.
Berwick launched in 1991 the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), which eventually became a leading authority on health care quality and improvement. He was serving as president and CEO of IHI at the time of his appointment by President Obama.
Berwick is also Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Health Care Policy at the Harvard Medical School, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, an associate in pediatrics at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, and a consultant in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital.
His other professional experiences include serving from 1989-1991 as a member of the Panel of Judges for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award program; vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force from 1990-1996; as the first “Independent Member” of the board of trustees of the American Hospital Association (1996-1999); chair of the Health Services Research Review Study Section of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (1995–1999), and chair of the National Advisory Council of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (1999-2001).
Berwick was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve on the Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Healthcare Industry which recommended a patients’ bill of rights and ways to reduce medical mistakes.
He has served as a member of several editorial boards, including the Journal of American Medical Association.
He is a past president of the international Society for Medical Decision-Making. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences, and since 2002 has served on the IOM’s governing council and as the liaison to the IOM’s Global Health Board.
His wife, Ann (Greenberg) Berwick, is an environmental attorney and former chief of the Environmental Protection Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
Obama intends to nominate Berwick’s principal deputy, Marilyn Tavenner, to succeed him. The New York Times reports that Tavenner, the former secretary of the Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, is “more of a manager and less of a visionary than Dr. Berwick.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff

Donald Berwick (AllGov) 


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