reprinted from Issue 23, Fall 2016 of Frontiers of Medicine (PDF)
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Robert M. Wachter, MD, an internationally known expert in patient safety, quality, and information technology who is also widely considered the academic leader of the hospitalist field, was appointed chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine in October. Wachter, who served as interim chair since 2015, will also become the Holly Smith Distinguished Professor in Science and Medicine; he already holds the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine.
Wachter graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied political science and was Penn’s school mascot (the Quaker) his senior year. He then attended Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine; the school named him its alumni of the year in 2015. He completed residency and chief residency in internal medicine at UCSF, followed by a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar fellowship at Stanford.
Author of 250 articles and six books, he coined the term “hospitalist” in 1996 and is generally considered the father of the hospitalist field, the fastest growing specialty in the history of modern medicine. He is past president of the Society of Hospital Medicine and past chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Wachter also edits the United States government’s leading website on patient safety and has written two books on the subject. In 2004, he received the Eisenberg Award, the nation’s top honor in patient safety. His 2015 book, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, was a New York Times science bestseller. He recently chaired a group advising England’s National Health Service on its digital strategy. In 2015, Modern Healthcare magazine ranked him as the most influential physician-executive in the U.S., his ninth consecutive year in the top 50.
At UCSF, Wachter served as internal medicine residency program director, then as founding chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine and chief of the Medical Service at UCSF Medical Center. A local honor includes the Academic Senate Distinction in Teaching Award.
Wachter, who enjoys golf, piano, and tweeting (@Bob_Wachter), lives in San Francisco with his wife, New York Times journalist and author Katie Hafner. They have three grown children, Doug, Benjy, and Zoë, and a miniature poodle, Newman.