The Institute of Medicine (IOM) today named Harvey Fineberg, former provost of Harvard University, as its seventh president. Fineberg will succeed Kenneth Shine, who faces mandatory retirement next June after two 6-year terms.
Under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides advice to the government in the form of reports on issues ranging from nutrition to the quality of health care. Its activities vary from ongoing assistance in veterans' health to enhancing and maintaining the public health infrastructure. In the past 5 years, the institute's funding has roughly doubled, to $25 million in 2001. Shine says he's confident in Fineberg's ability to attract talented staff to more than 50 future positions.
Fineberg, 56, stepped down as Harvard provost last June after 4 years, capping a lengthy tenure as a Harvard administrator and student. He earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1972 and a doctorate in public policy from Harvard 8 years later. He also served as dean of the university's School of Public Health.
Although Fineberg says it's too early to spell out specific plans for his tenure, he wants to address the broad role of information technology in health care decision-making and management. That involves issues ranging from making medical information accessible to the public and applying "evidence-based" medicine in clinical care. He also plans to address issues cropping up around the human genome. "We now have a working knowledge of the human genome, and it is bringing together science and society," he says. In addition, he wants to help guide how genetic information is applied to patient care.
Barry Bloom, who followed Fineberg as the dean of Harvard's School of Public Health, recalls that as dean, Fineberg sharpened the school's focus on the quality of health care and understanding how economic factors contribute to a person's health. "He was key to raising issues of the underserved and the inequities of health [care]," says Bloom.
For his part, Fineberg sees the bioterror crisis that has gripped the nation as a challenge rather than a deterrent. "Many people think it's not a very good time to go to Washington," he says, "but I think it's a compelling time--to be a solution to problems in the near term as well as long-term issues facing the country."