Dr. Sweeney Named Interim Chair of Department of Surgery

December 2012

Effective January 15, 2013, when Dr. Christian Larsen assumes his new position as dean of Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. John Sweeney will begin serving as interim chair of the Department of Surgery as well as interim surgeon-in-chief of Emory University Hospital. Dr. Sweeney has been a faculty member since 2009 and is W. Dean Warren Distinguished Professor of Surgery, chief of the division of general and gastrointestinal surgery, and director of clinical quality and patient safety of the Department of Surgery.

"Dr. Larsen provided me with the tools to build the quality and safety program and the independence to move it forward. I don't think that our successes would have been possible without this recipe," says Dr. Sweeney. "I will do my best to emulate and continue his positive leadership style and his commitment to excellence in patient care, education, and discovery."

Prior to Emory, Dr. Sweeney directed the division of general surgery, the bariatric surgery program, and the Michael E. DeBakey Minimally Invasive Surgery Center of Excellence of the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine. Before Baylor, he served as chief of surgery at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center and director of minimally invasive surgery at the University of Michigan.

Since becoming the director of the clinical quality and patient safety program of the Emory Department of Surgery, Dr. Sweeney has helmed its participation in the University Healthcare Consortium (UHC), American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS/NSQIP), Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP), and Best Practices for Better Care (BPBC). In 2010 UHC ranked Emory University Hospital (EUH) 45th and Emory University Hospital Midtown (EUHM) 42nd in the organization's Quality Leadership Awards. In 2011, EUH climbed to 10th and EUHM to 11th, and by 2012 EUH ranked 2nd and EUHM 6th, the first time UHC has ever ranked two hospitals from one health care system in the national top 10. Rankings are based on multiple domains of quality: mortality, core measures, equity of core measures, readmissions, safety, patient satisfaction, and efficiency. The climb to UHC's top tier was greatly influenced by the efforts of Dr. Sweeney's teams at these hospitals.

In 2010, Dr. Sweeney and Co-PI James C. Cox, director of the Experimental Economics Center of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, received a three year collaborative award from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to fund their examination of hospital length of stay and discharge decisions. Examinations of clinical, behavioral, cultural, social, and demographic factors are involved. One of the team's primary projects is the development of decision support software for increasing physicians' effectiveness in discharging patients at the appropriate time. If results are positive after lab testing, the software will be rolled out to patient wards for further evaluation.