Friday, May 6, 2011

In Memoriam: James J. Mongan, MD


A beloved and visionary leader in health care, James J. Mongan, MD, died of cancer May 3 at the MGH surrounded by his family. Mongan served as president of the MGH from 1996 to 2002 and president and CEO of Partners HealthCare from 2003 to 2009. He was 69.

"We are truly devastated by the loss of such an inspirational leader, and our hearts go out to his family and all who knew him," says Peter L. Slavin, MD, who succeeded Mongan as MGH president in 2003. "Dr. Mongan's memory will endure far into the future through his work at the MGH and Partners and through his leadership in shaping state and national health care reform."

Under Mongan's leadership, the MGH saw significant progress and growth in important areas like cardiology, oncology and pediatrics. He shepherded the institution through a number of challenges, accommodating increased admissions while helping to reduce length of stay and stabilizing the hospital's finances. Mongan also oversaw construction of several facilities that have become mainstays of the MGH campus, including the Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care and the Richard B. Simches Research Center.

Over the course of his presidency, Mongan helped bolster research funding from $183 million to $343 million. He also was at the forefront of establishing the MGH/Partners Institute for Health Policy, a leading health policy research center that was renamed in his honor in 2009. Mongan oversaw the formation of important collaborations with other institutions -- including combined MGH/BWH residency and fellowship programs -- and was widely noted for his advocacy of increased diversity of MGH trainees and faculty.

In December 2002, Mongan stepped down from his MGH role to take up the reins as president and CEO of Partners HealthCare, where he led a systemwide approach to quality that would evolve into High Performance Medicine. This initiative continues to improve care at all Partners institutions through strategies like the electronic medical record, increased collaboration in tracking key metrics and sharing best practices.

As a leading advocate for health care reform in Massachusetts, Mongan's influence as Partners president and CEO extended far beyond Partners affiliates. He contributed broadly to the reform dialogue through leadership roles on the top health policy committees and organizations, and his efforts helped shape a state model that would pave the way for nationwide reform. As a professor of Health Care Policy and Social Medicine at HMS and co-author of the book, "Chaos and Organization in Health Care," Mongan has passed along wisdom that will guide generations to come.

Prior to his work with the MGH and Partners, Mongan served as president of the Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City and dean of the affiliated University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. His early career was dedicated to health care policy at the federal level; for seven years he worked as a staff member for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and for two years as deputy assistant secretary for Health Policy and special assistant to the secretary for National Health Insurance. In 1979, he was appointed assistant surgeon general and associate director for Health and Human Resources under the Carter Administration, a position he held until 1981. A native of San Francisco, Mongan completed his undergraduate education at the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University and earned a medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine. He then completed an internship with Kaiser Foundation Hospital and worked for two years as a medical officer in the U.S. Public Health Service.

Mongan's wife, Jean, is a longtime MGH volunteer and member of the Ladies Visiting Committee. He also is survived by their children, Sarah and John; daughter-in-law, Theresa; grandson, James; and siblings, Tom and Peggy Murphy. A memorial service will be held June 1 from 3 to 4 pm at Memorial Church, located at One Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Mass.

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