Lucian Leape, patient safety champion, honored at retirement symposium

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Colleagues, friends, and family gathered to celebrate the career and legacy of Lucian Leape, adjunct professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management (HPM) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, at a retirement symposium held September 8, 2015 in Kresge Cafeteria. Leape, who began his career as a pediatric surgeon, is renowned for his groundbreaking research on reducing medical errors, and dedicated advocacy for improving health systems. He is credited with inspiring a patient safety movement in health care that has contributed to reductions in often deadly but preventable problems such as central line infections and medication errors.

Opening the symposium, Katherine Baicker, C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics and acting chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management, praised Leape not only for his research accomplishments but for acting as an “inspiring and dedicated mentor to generations of students.” She read a statement from Donald Berwick, a former Harvard Chan School colleague of Leape’s and former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who called Leape a “giant, hands-down,” with a “calm but relentless voice” in advocating for patient safety.

Professors Ashish Jha and Atul Gawande both recalled reading Leape’s groundbreaking 1994 JAMA paper Error in Medicine early in their careers. As young doctors, they found the way Leape looked at improving health care from a systems perspective profoundly influential.