John R. Hogness, MD, was the first president of the Institute of Medicine. The IOM serves the country as an “aggressive, unbiased examiner of health care problems” within the National Academy of Sciences. It is an honest broker that tackles the biggest and most complex problems that medicine faces, proposes the difficult and rational solutions required to improve health care. By nurturing the IOM during its nascent days, Dr. Hogness likely shaped how we, as a country, will address health care public policy debates for years to come.
Dr. Hogness recently died; I loved the stories about him that were told and implied in his obituary
. While serving as dean of the University of Washington Medical School, he spent two months showing, in a practical way, his belief in the value of rural medicine by substituting for a vacationing primary practice physician in Omak, WA. He saw patients, made house calls, and even completed an appendectomy when the surgeon became ill.
The article stressed that he believed that great physicians can be found both inside and outside of medical school practices. “There are turkeys everywhere, including academia,” he noted. I suspect he might have looked with disdain on the profusion of “Best Doctor” lists with their inherent biases against non-academic private practitioners.
After a professional career as a dean, provost, curriculum innovator, national leader, quality advocate, and visionary, he finished his calling where he began, as a physician. The article describes him as “a shy yet affable man … who used his sense of humor, a physician’s bedside manner, a diplomat’s skills, a flair for acting, and an administrator’s discipline.”
Pulitzer Prize winning author Wallace Stegner wrote in Crossing to Safety
that “talent lies around us like kindling waiting for a match, but some people, just as gifted as others, are less lucky. Fate never drops a match on them.” As I read this short synopsis of his life, I was struck that not only were Dr. Hogness’s talents set on fire but that he nurtured his gifts and shared them willingly.
His life’s work will have an impact on all of our medical careers for generations to come; how remarkable that the vast majority of us will never know whose talents were ignited and fanned to bring us to where we are and could yet go in the future.
The New York Times obituary (NYT 07-10-2007 A21)
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Sounds like he might have been "the match" for many of those around him.