UCSF faculty honored for work in patient safety

By Kimberly Wong

Robert M. Wachter, MD, chief of the medical service and chair of the patient safety committee at UCSF Medical Center, is a recipient of the 2004 John M. Eisenberg award.

The award, named after the late director of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, is considered the nation’s top honor in the fields of patient safety and quality. The winners were selected by the National Quality Forum and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

Wachter was a co-recipient with former UCSF assistant professor of medicine, Kaveh G. Shojania, MD, now at the University of Ottawa.

A special ceremony to honor this year’s winners will take place on October 6th, at the National Quality Forum’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Awards were presented in four categories.

Wachter and Shojania’s achievement was honored for “innovation in patient safety and quality at a national or regional level.” The selection was based on their case-based approach to educating providers, researchers, patients and policymakers in patient safety, and was reflected in three main projects:

* The “Quality Grand Rounds” series in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the first academic series to describe and analyze cases of medical mistakes.

* The web-based patient safety journal, AHRQ WebM&M (http:webmm.ahrq.gov), the first journal to present cases of medical errors reported by providers from around the world.

* The national best-selling book, “Internal Bleeding: The Truth Behind America’ s Terrifying Epidemic of Medical Mistakes” (Rugged Land, 2004).

“We took a controversial path in our work,” said Wachter. “We used the discussion of actual cases to teach both patients and health care providers about how medical mistakes happen and how they can be prevented. This award is a wonderful validation of that approach, although the most important reward is knowing that our work is being used by real doctors, nurses, and patients to save lives.”

“Dr. Eisenberg was a mentor of mine in medical school—the first physician I ever met who, while completely devoted to the care of individual patients, was also tirelessly committed to making the health care system work better,” said Wachter. “Winning this award in his name is a special honor.”

Other recipients include: Lucian Leape, MD, Harvard School of Public Health for individual achievement; Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for research achievement; Major Danny Jaghab, Brooke Army Academy Medical Center for innovation in patient safety and quality at the national and regional level; The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-McKeesport for innovation in patient safety and quality at the local or organization level.