Celebrating 40 years of Wennberg & co. small area variations research

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I spent a delightful weekend in Hanover/Lebanon, New Hampshire at the invitation of Jack Wennberg, Dartmouth medical school pioneer in small area variations research – better explained to any audience, as Jack puts it, that “geography is destiny” in US health care. How you are treated may depend on where you live. It has become one of the most important themes of health policy discussion in the US today.


About 100 of Jack’s friends and colleagues gathered to tell stories about 40 years of this research path. There were linkages to his days at Johns Hopkins in the 60s, to Vermont in the early 70s, his attempt to get his early work published in that era (rejected by major medical journals), to his move to Dartmouth in 1979, and fast-forwarding to his impact on the national health care reform discussion today.

The celebration was an entertaining, educational and emotional evening.

Screen shot 2010-11-08 at 10.48.45 AM.jpgThat 40-year history is captured in Wennberg’s new book, “Tracking Medicine: A Researcher’s Quest To Understand Health Care.

I had the honor of working right down the hallway from Wennberg throughout the 90s at Dartmouth Medical School. He was co-founder of the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, for whom I produced shared decision-making programs. FIMDM is now the sole sponsor of my HealthNewsReview.org project.

From him I learned the unforgettable lesson to question conventional wisdom in health care. I’ve tried to share that every day with students and with professional journalists.

I will be forever indebted to him.

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