This Year's 50 Most Influential Physician Executive Leaders

Megan Brooks

April 08, 2015

Robert Wachter, MD, who is widely regarded as the father of the rapidly growing field of hospitalist medicine, tops Modern Healthcare's 2015 ranking of the nation's 50 most influential physician executives and leaders.

Dr Wachter, 57, is associate chairman, department of medicine, University of California at San Francisco, past-president of the Society of Hospital Medicine, and past-chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine.

A noted expert in the field of medical errors and patient safety, Dr Wachter has authored hundreds of articles and several books on patient safety, most recently, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age, which assesses the value of information technology in healthcare. He edits the federal government's two leading patient safety websites — the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and AHRQ Patient Safety Network.

Occupying the second position in this year's ranking is Richard Gilfillan, MD, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Livonia, Michigan-based Trinity Health, the $13.6 billion Catholic health system that serves communities in 21 states with 85 hospitals, and 128 continuing-care facilities and home-health and hospice providers that provide more than 2.8 million visits each year. As the first director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, he worked with payers and providers to develop innovative models for improving patient care and reducing costs. Dr Gilfillan occupied the top spot on the 2014 ranking.

Holding down the third position is Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who moved up from number 18 on the 2014 list, and the fourth position is held by Atul Gawande, MD, surgeon and public health researcher from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and author of Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science. The 2002 book was a National Book Award finalist and has been published in over 100 countries. Dr Gawande is also the author of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, a best-seller on dying and end-of-life care.

Rounding out the top 10 in order are: Jonathan Perlin, MD, PhD, chief medical officer of the Hospital Corporation of America and chairman, American Hospital Association; John Noseworthy, MD, president and CEO, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; James Madara, MD, executive vice president and CEO of the American Medical Association; Karen DeSalvo, MD, the federal government's health information technology coordinator; Charles Sorenson, MD, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Gary Kaplan, MD, chairman and CEO of the Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle, Washington. (Editor's note: Eric Topol, MD, Medscape's editor-in-chief, also made the list this year, as he has for the last four years. In 2012 he was number one.)

The complete list is available here.

An article in Modern Healthcare notes that the 2015 ranking in many ways reflects the transformation of healthcare over the past several years, with many spots occupied by doctors focused on improving patient safety.

To determine the 11th annual ranking of the 50 most influential physicians, Modern Healthcare readers submitted more than 400 nominations, 150 of which made it into the ballot. Readers cast votes for the candidate they believed should be included in the top 50 final ranking. More than 23,000 ballots were submitted. As in previous years, readers' votes counted for 50% of the outcome to determine the final ranking. The other 50% was based on the opinions of senior editors at Modern Healthcare.



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