Don Berwick, M.D.

Former Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Founding CEO, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Quality healthcare for every American is still possible.

Add to Shortlist More Information


Don Berwick is the United States' leading advocate for high-quality healthcare.

He is currently President Emeritus and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement - IHI. From July 2010, to December 2011, Dr. Berwick served as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. For 22 years prior to that, he was the founding CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a nonprofit dedicated to improving healthcare around the world. A pediatrician by background, he has also served on the faculties of the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Don sees tremendous unrealized potential in American medicine. Despite our outstanding knowledge base, expert practitioners, and world-class equipment, too many Americans do not have access to safe, high-quality care. Dr. Berwick presents a vision of how, through continual improvement, innovations in healthcare delivery, stronger leadership, and smarter policy, America can forge a system that satisfies our patients, achieves better outcomes, respects our limited resources, and honors our moral imperative to care for the disadvantaged. His focus on improving quality has gained him a reputation as a powerful motivator who can encourage institutions and individuals to do their work better.

Let's make "best" the new norm.

In 2005, he was appointed "Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire" by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of his work with the British National Health Service. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Ernest A. Codman Award, the American Hospital Association's Award of Honor, the Heinz award for Public Policy and the Institute of Medicine's Gustav O. Lienhard Award. He has been named as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (London) and a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practice. His over 160 articles have appeared in professional journals on such topics as healthcare policy and healthcare quality management. His books include Promising Healthcare: How We Can Rescue Health Care by Improving It, Curing Health Care, and New Rules: Regulation, Markets and the Quality of American Health Care.

Don continues to be one of the top thinkers in healthcare today.


Promising Care:

How We Can Rescue Health Care by Improving It

Don Berwick, M.D.

Promising Care: How We Can Rescue Health Care by Improving It collects 16 speeches given over a period of 10 years by Donald M. Berwick, an internationally acclaimed champion of health care improvement throughout the course of his long and storied career as a physician, health care educator and policy expert, leader of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), and administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. These landmark speeches (including all of Berwick’s speeches delivered at IHI’s annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care from 2003 to 2012) clearly show why our medical systems don’t reliably contribute to our overall health. As a remedy he offers a vision for making our systems better — safer, more effective, more efficient, and more humane.

Each of Berwick’s compelling speeches is preceded by a brief commentary by a prominent figure in health care, policy, or politics who has a unique connection to that particular speech. Contributors include such notables as Tom Daschle, Paul Batalden, and Lord Nigel Crisp. Their commentaries reflect on how it felt to hear the speech in the context in which it was delivered, and assess its relevance in today’s health care environment. The introduction is by Maureen Bisognano, CEO of Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and author of Pursuing the Triple Aim.

Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (November 25, 2013)


"'My Right Knee' was a personal turning point for me, and it raised the bar for the health care industry ... I wasn't quite prepared to hear a speech that would provide a defining moment in my own leadership journey and quest for quality."
— Gary S. Kaplan, MD

"Tomorrow's leaders will need Berwick's stunning ability to bridge and balance tensions without collapsing them, to hold contradictions."
— Diana Chapman Walsh, PhD

"As in all of his speeches, whether to an audience unfamiliar with the mortal drama of illness and privation or to those steeped in its complexities, Don Berwick signals the urgency and pathos of a wounded world."
—Paul Farmer, MD, PhD

"Dr. Berwick is masterful at the use of stories to convey memorable and vivid messages that are vital to the humanistic core as well as the modern challenge of medicine."
— Christine K. Cassel, MD

"It takes someone like Don Berwick to shake us out of our biomedical mindset and remind us that we are dealing not just with a disease, but with a person often buffeted by factors we can't quantify or control."
— Mark D. Smith, MD, MBA

Curing Health Care

New Strategies for Quality Improvement

Donald M. Berwick, A. Blanton Godfrey and Jane Roessner

Describes how health care organizations can apply modern quality assurance methods to help recapture control and hope in a time of frustration and skyrocketing costs. Using the reports of National Demonstration Project teams, it illustrates the entire quality improvement process — from defining the problem through implementing a solution and consolidating the project's gains. Curing Health Care demonstrates what works and does not work in actual practice, presenting case examples of specific health care improvement projects ranging from transport of critically ill infants to quick turnaround of emergency lab specimens and the generation of accurate Medicare bills. The authors distill their findings into ten key lessons, revealing, for example, the importance of senior management support for quality improvement projects. They stress the need to bring physicians directly into the quality improvement process and explore its potential for stimulating dramatic improvements in clinical practice.

Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 15, 2002)

New Rules

Regulation, Markets, and the Quality of American Health Care

Donald M. Berwick and Troyen A. Brennan

Health care regulation was designed to help guarantee appropriate standards of quality. Yet today regulation often seems to result in mindless bureaucracy or to actually impede positive change. New Rules tells the story of regulation in the health care industry and outlines how to convert regulation from a meaningless waste of resources into a system that truly can help practitioners provide better care. The authors outline the evolution of health care regulation over the last quarter century and examine the relationship between regulation and quality improvement. They show for instance, that while innovation in health care can achieve great leaps of improvement, regulations whose underlying motive is to preserve professional boundaries will be impediments to innovative new ways to meet the need for primary care and health information. And they offer fourteen of their own "prescriptions'' for changes in specific arenas of regulation, including: linking regulation explicitly to shared aims such as reducing the racial gap in infant mortality or reducing medication errors, establishing safe havens for major innovation, encouraging the progression of managed care, monitoring quality for the impoverished, maintaining governmental support for community-based health improvement initiatives, and other bold recommendations for change. New Rules is written for health care regulators, health care executives, scholars of public health, health care administration and public administration, and all those interested in the modern quality movement.

Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (November 2, 1995)


Don tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

The Future of Healthcare


The path forward in healthcare | Health Catalyst

Positive Disruption: Opportunities Ahead | Hawai'i Pacific Health

Successes, Failures and Challenges

Harvard Medical School Commencement Address 2012

Clinical leadership of health care reform


A health plan provider:
Dr. Berwick was wonderful!!! His message and interaction with everyone here in [ city ] was incredibly professional, and at the same time poignant, as he used personal stories to illustrate the points he was making. As this was the first event of its kind for us, it was especially important to have such an engaging and impressive speaker. He also interacted at a lunch we had with some of our physicians and board members, and in a visit to our flagship hospital. He made a lot of friends here in [ city] and is welcome back anytime. He was so warm and reachable with everyone he met.

A leading membership organization:
Everything worked perfectly. His presentation was wonderful. The feedback was uniformly enthusiastic. I thought attendees were hanging on every word. Could not be more pleased with Don as a speaker.

A healthcare foundation:
Don Berwick gave a fantastic presentation. Thoughtful, insightful, funny, and profound — A+

A hospital association:
Our annual meeting was incredibly well received and the evaluations were excellent with reference to a well-rounded experience with speakers and content. Creating the mix of programs and speakers for our executives to experience is always a challenge but this year's event was outstanding. I know our members appreciated your time and expertise.

  • Very engaging — open to questions
  • Provocative thoughts. Inspiring!
  • Great information, summarized well
  • Awesome!
  • What a great start. Array of knowledge he must have
  • Very thought-provoking ideas — easy to listen to Dr. Berwick
  • Excellent — great asset to have here

A medical center:
We loved having him there. The feedback was excellent. Good information. Well delivered. He is such a gracious person. I can see why he is in great demand. We would definitely ask him back. We are very honored that he agreed to come.

A healthcare association:
All went extremely well with Dr. Berwick’s presentation. He attracted one of the largest audience’s that we ever had... [His] presentation was outstanding and well received. He is a wonderful presenter who seamlessly transitioned from a personal and heartfelt experience that took place many years ago while he was a resident to what can and needs to be done in this country to improve the quality of health care.

Although we did not conduct a formal evaluation, I heard nothing but positive comments as people left the auditorium. In fact a few people followed Dr. Berwick to his car simply to shake his hand and to thank him.

A healthcare association:
Dr. Berwick rocked the Conference. He was truly outstanding.

An independent nonpartisan think tank:
The event was fantastic and we appreciated his input tremendously. We only hope he got as much out of it as [we] did.

A professional association for the advancement of urologic patient care:
Wonderful, great response from our members.

A healthcare association:
Very, very pleased . . . Highlight of the day.

A healthcare association:
Huge hit.

A university:
I could not have imagined a better way to bring into focus all of the ideas presented over the two day symposium, or better express the ultimate goal of our health care initiative, than with the speech you delivered. The feedback we received has been tremendous.

A medical center:
Very good, very personable, well received.

A healthcare system:
Don's visit was a great success. His presentation was greeted with an immediate and spontaneous standing ovation -and has since been the topic of many conversations in our community

A healthcare association:

  • Excellent
  • Enjoyable to listen to, and he provided very concrete reasons to change
  • Sobering information from a committed expert
  • Outstanding
  • Great information and very engaging
  • Great insight to a difficult task, problem. Thought-provoking
  • Vast knowledge, experienced physician. Very stimulating speaker
  • Always enjoyable
  • Timely, excellent speaker
  • Incredible
  • Always a great speaker
  • Very humble and honest. Excellent insight to the change we saw in the past two years
  • Nice to hear and see what he is really thinking
  • Triple aim reinforcing
  • Interesting. Good job making points without politics
  • Great content but a little too liberal for my perspective. I enjoyed hearing his positions on U.S. healthcare
  • Good to hear from the top of the governmental medical finances and to hear his positions
  • Excellent speaker and information
  • Excellent
  • Enjoyed hearing his story of the "why" behind some of his decisions
  • A+. Outstanding

A medical institute:
Thank you for your expert and heartfelt comments and for so beautifully illustrating how health care clinics and patients and families can work together to change health care.

We continue to hear many wonderful remarks about your powerful message. Your comments stirred a variety of conversations critical to improving the culture in healthcare. We believe the point was clearly made that to enhance safety and quality, and to change and improve quality of care, we must establish meaningful partnerships with patients and families in thoughtful ways. We are proud of the outcome of the conference and appreciate your significant role in making this a successful meeting. Just a few of the comments we received about your remarks include:

  • “Absolutely wonderful discussion. Dr. Berwick said exactly what needed to be said! I cannot say how much I enjoyed his lecture, and learned so much. He is a true pioneer for patient advocacy.”
  • “Don's perspective was invaluable. He was brilliant conveying the challenges and the challenges and opportunities in healthcare!”
  • “Could listen to Don Berwick again and again. We need more people like him on the planet... those that have a passion and great concern for humanity with focus on coverage of health care for all. Thank you.”
  • “Don Berwick! Wow! What an amazing and inspiring speaker. Thank you for having him speak that really made the conference just over the top spectacular!”
  • “Don Berwick's session was powerful and was the highlight of the conference. His insights and information about what is going on in Washington was very revealing. I was most impressed.”
  • “Dr. Berwick is very knowledgable and experienced. I truly enjoyed listening to him and his very realistic patient – and family – centric view of our health care free of political bias.”
  • “He is my new HERO. Everything he said was thoughtful, brilliant and right on the money.”
  • "Don was fabulous... great passion and belief for the partnership and direction we need to aim.”
  • “I loved this presentation and Dr. Berwick! I wish he could have continued talking with us. Since his presentation I have begun to think differently with much more hope about the future of health care and my part in it. Wonder presentation!”
  • This was a different side of Don Berwick and the message came out loud and clear for those who have respected and admired his contributions to health care.”
  • "This was personally fascinating to me, because, even though I attended as a patient and family leader (my daughter spent time in a NICU), I also happen to work for a state health and welfare department, so I deal with Medicaid ever day. To have the opportunity to hear from a former administrator of CMS speak was awesome for me! To top it off, everything he said was relevant not only in my day job but in advocating for my child.”
  • “He is the kind of person you would love to have a long dinner and coffee with, or better yet, work with.”