October 11, 2007

Two Group Health physician researchers elected to the Institute of Medicine

Seattle—Two leaders from the Group Health Center for Health Studies—Drs. Eric B. Larson and Ed Wagner—have been elected to The Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the nation's top honors in medicine.

Larson is executive director of the Group Health Center for Health Studies (CHS) and a scientist well known for his research on Alzheimer's disease and healthy aging. Wagner is director of Group Health's MacColl Institute for Health Care Innovation, which is part of the CHS, and served as the CHS' founding director from 1983 to 1995. He is recognized internationally for his development of the Chronic Care Model.

The IOM is part of the National Academy of Sciences and a national resource for independent, scientific analysis and recommendations on health issues. IOM members advise the federal government on issues involving medical care, research, and education. The IOM announced the names of 65 new members on Monday, including Larson and Wagner, raising its total active membership to 1,538.

Existing members elect new members "through a highly selective process that recognizes people who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health," said IOM President Harvey V. Fineberg. "Election is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health."

"Dr. Eric Larson is one of the leading figures of his generation in general internal medicine," wrote Dr. Gilbert Omenn, University of Michigan Professor of Internal Medicine, Human Genetics, and Public Health, who was among those nominating Larson and Wagner to IOM membership.  "Dr. Larson is the primary contributor to research and practice guidelines on ameliorable risk factors in cognitive decline in the elderly, especially physical activity. He remains 'the doctors' doctor' in Seattle."

Regarding Wagner, Omenn wrote, "From early work on controlling hypertension in diverse communities through recent work on improving care for diabetes and cancer, Dr. Ed Wagner has pioneered the conceptual Chronic Care Model and rigorous evaluative methods that have provided the foundation for public and private initiatives to improve quality of everyday care."

Omenn said having two physicians elected to IOM in one year is "a spectacular recognition" of both Group Health and the University of Washington (UW), institutions that have collaborated on much of the research conducted by Larson and Wagner. He added that the two men "are among the most admired physician health researchers in the world."

Formerly the medical director at the UW Medical Center, Larson has led the Group Health Center for Health Studies since 2002. His research interests range from clinical topics such as Alzheimer's disease to health services research involving technology assessment, cost-effectiveness analysis, and quality improvement. He heads a longstanding project at Group Health called the "University of Washington/Group Health Alzheimer's Disease Patient Registry/Adult Changes in Thought Study." He also works on research related to health informatics, genomics, and other topics. Larson is a commissioner on The Joint Commission and past chair of the American College of Physicians' Board of Regents.

Wagner focuses on developing and evaluating interventions for people with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression. He is also the principal investigator for the Cancer Research Network, a National Cancer Institute-funded consortium of 13 health plans examining the effectiveness of cancer screening and treatments. He served as co-chair of the task force that led to the creation of the Puget Sound Health Alliance, a regional multi-stakeholder collaboration committed to improving quality and reducing costs. Wagner and his team are now focusing attention on identifying and fostering innovative ideas devised by health care providers at Group Health. He is a professor of health services at the UW School of Public Health.

With election to IOM, members commit to volunteer service on IOM committees studying a broad range of public health topics. Recent seminal reports have covered issues such as globalization's impact on emerging infectious diseases (Microbial Threats to Health: The Threat of Pandemic Influenza); cancer detection and treatment using new molecular tools (Cancer Biomarkers: The Promises and Challenges of Improving Detection and Treatment); and the reforms needed to increase patient safety (To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System) and quality of care (Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century).

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