American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Don E. Detmer, MD, FACS, Named Medical Director of ACS DAHP


CHICAGO (March 22, 2011): Don E. Detmer, MD, FACS, will become Medical Director of the Division of Advocacy and Health Policy at the American College of Surgeons (ACS) on March 25.  A vascular surgeon from Charlottesville, VA, Dr. Detmer most recently served as senior advisor for the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA).  He was president and chief executive officer of AMIA from 2004 to 2009, and in 2010 received the organization’s prestigious Morris F. Collen Award as a “visionary physician for his work in biomedical and health informatics.”  He is Professor Emeritus and Professor of Medical Education at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Health Informatics and Multiprofessional Education (CHIME) at University College London, London, UK. 

The ACS Division of Advocacy and Health Policy is responsible for monitoring and analyzing socioeconomic, legislative, and regulatory issues affecting the field of surgery; participating in health policy development; and preparing responses to Congress and federal agencies.  Through its Washington, DC office, the division maintains liaison between the ACS and Congress and federal agencies, as well as the offices of other surgical and medical associations, regarding health policy matters of importance to surgeons and their patients.  Dr. Detmer becomes the first-ever Medical Director of the Division of Advocacy and Health Policy.   

In announcing Dr. Detmer’s appointment, David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, Executive Director of the American College of Surgeons said, “Dr. Detmer’s credentials represent a unique blend of surgical training and practice, health policy leadership, and biomedical informatics expertise.  In addition to his significant health policy background, he brings a wealth of visionary experience in medical informatics and participation in the activities of the Institute of Medicine to our organization.  We all look forward to working with him in advancing those areas of health policy that affect surgeons and their patients in a rapidly changing health care environment.”  

A native of Great Bend, KS, Dr. Detmer earned a MD from the University of Kansas, Kansas City, (1965) and a MA from Cambridge University, UK (2002).  He trained as a surgical resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD, and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC (1965-67); his military service was as a clinical associate in the surgery branch of the National Heart Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD (1967-69); followed by service as a surgeon in the U.S. Public Health Service.  Dr. Detmer displayed a strong interest in health policy issues early in his multifaceted career, and served as the inaugural health policy fellow at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Washington, DC (1972-73), where he fostered the development of the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellows Program.  He was later elected to IOM membership in 1991.

Following his IOM fellowship, Dr. Detmer embarked upon a multidisciplinary academic career; first at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he served a joint appointment in preventive medicine and surgery in the capacity of assistant professor (1973-77); associate professor (1977-80); and professor (1980-84) in both disciplines.  At the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, he served as vice-president for health sciences and a dual role of professor of surgery and medical informatics (1984-88) before moving on to the University of Virginia (UVA) where he served as vice-president for health sciences, professor of surgery, and professor of business administration (1988-92).  He co-founded and served as co-director of the Virginia Health Policy Center (1992-99), while rising through the ranks to become senior vice-president of the University of Virginia, and the Louise Nerancy Professor of Health Sciences Policy and Professor of Surgery and Professor of Health Evaluation Services (1996-98).  He left UVA to become the Dennis Gillings Professor of Health Management and director, Cambridge University Health (1999-2003). 

Dr. Detmer’s academic surgical career includes several notable highlights.  At the University of Wisconsin, he developed a master’s degree program for clinician-executives, which was the first administrative medicine program in the United States; developed a groundbreaking system for detecting and requiring completion of medical charts that were overdue with regard to documentation; and served as team physician to the Wisconsin Badgers.  With a grant from the National Library of Medicine, he collaborated with Homer Warner, MD, to install the University of Utah’s Health Evaluation through Logical Processing (HELP) Hospital Information System, which enables clinicians to implement medical decision-making in real time for patient care.  The University of Virginia opened a new hospital during his tenure and he administered not only its development and opening, but also introduced a computer-based physician-order entry system at the facility.  Clinically, he maintained an energetic 26-year career as a vascular surgeon (1972-88), specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic compartment syndrome (CCS). 

Nationally renown for his influential work with the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Detmer chaired the landmark 1991 IOM CPR Report, which analyzed the use of computer-based patient records (CPR) in tandem with emerging technologies, and set forth a long-range vision for their use as a means to improve the quality of patient care.  One of the recommendations of the report later led to the development of the Computer-based Patient Record Institute (CPRI) to study the nation’s infrastructure and provide recommendations on improving it in order to move toward widespread utilization of computer-based patient records.  

In 1991, he began an 11-year term on IOM’s Board on Health Care Services, including eight years as its Chair.  He chaired the IOM Group to Improve the Medical Record (1989-91); chaired the IOM Board on Health Care Services (1994-2002); and co-chaired the IOM Committee on Physician Supply (1995).  He served on the IOM committees that studied and issued the reports “To Err is Human: Building a Safe Health Care System” (2000) and “Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Healthcare System for the Next Century” (2001).  In 2009 he received the IOM’s Walsh McDermott Award for service to the Institute. Furthermore, from 1989 to 1991, he served as chair of the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine and he chaired the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 1996 to 1999.

Dr. Detmer became a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1982, and served on the ACS Committee on Allied Health Professionals (1988-94) as a member, Vice-Chair, and Chair, in addition to serving as a member of the ACS International Relations Committee (1995-2002) and the ACS Committee on Informatics (2004-10).  

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About the American College of Surgeons
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 79,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit


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