Adjunct Professor of Health Policy
Lucian Leape is a health policy innovator who has had two careers. After graduating with honors from Harvard Medical School in 1959, he trained in general and thoracic surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital and in the new specialty of pediatric surgery at Boston Childrens Hospital. In his first academic post at the University of Kansas, his research focused on the pathophysiology of burns, gastroesophageal reflux, and the use of parenteral nutrition in infants. He became a Markle Scholar and was instrumental in the founding of the American Pediatric Surgical Association. He returned to Boston as professor and head of pediatric surgery at Tufts University Medical Center, a position he held for 13 years. He published over 100 papers and book chapters and a textbook in pediatric surgery.
In 1986, he began a new career in health policy. After a Pew fellowship at RAND, he joined the just beginning Medical Practice Study (MPS) of medical injury and became an adjunct professor at Harvard School of Public Health. With colleagues at RAND he conducted some of the early studies of overuse and underuse of cardiac procedures. When the MPS revealed the extent of preventable harm, he began a study of the causes of errors, leading to the publication in JAMA in 1994 of Error in Medicine, which called for the application of systems theory to prevent medical errors. This led ultimately to the founding of the National Patient Safety Foundation and the Institute of Medicine’s landmark publications, To Err is Human and Crossing the Quality Chasm.
His subsequent work has focused on the application of systems theory to health care, improving disclosure and apology following medical harm, and, most recently, changing medical culture to be more respectful and patient-centered. He has been honored with the American Pediatric Surgical Association’s Distinguished Service Award, the John Eisenberg Award of the Joint Commission and National Quality Forum, and the Donabedian Award of the American Public Health Association. In 2006, Modern Healthcare named him as one of the 30 people who have had the most impact on healthcare in the past 30 years. In 2007, the National Patient Safety Foundation established the Lucian Leape Institute to further strategic thinking in patient safety.
Dr. Leape has three sons and 7 grandchildren, each of whom is dedicated to making the world a better place.
AB, Cornell University, 1952
MD,cum laude, Harvard Medical School, 1959