While advances in biomedicine are awesome, progress in patient safety and quality of care has proven slow and arduous. One factor contributing to the labored progress is the paucity of physician-leaders who can help advance the science and practice of quality and safety. This limited talent pool, which has particularly serious consequences in academic medical centers (AMCs), stems from insufficient training in quality and safety, which in turn owes to our collective failure to view the delivery of health care as a science. Even when AMCs have trained and skilled quality and safety leaders, the infrastructure to support their work is deficient, with poorly defined job descriptions, competing responsibilities, and limited formal roles in the medical school compared with the hospital. Though there is limited empiric evidence to guide recommendations, the authors support four initiatives to accelerate national progress on quality and safety: (1) invest in quality and safety science, (2) revise quality and safety governance in AMCs, and (3) integrate roles within the hospital and medical school. Many of these shortcomings can be addressed by creating a newly integrated role: the vice dean for quality and hospital director of quality and safety. For AMCs to achieve significant improvements in quality and safety, they must invest in physician-leaders and in the support these leaders need to carry out their educational and operational roles.
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