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Gustav O. Lienhard Award for Advancement of Health Care

The Gustav O. Lienhard Award, established in 1986, is presented annually by the National Academy of Medicine in honor of Gustav O. Lienhard, Chairman of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Board of Trustees from 1971 to 1986. The award — a medal and $40,000 — recognizes individuals for outstanding achievement in improving health care services in the United States. Support for the award is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Each year, a selection committee appointed by the NAM reviews nominations based on selection criteria that reflect the ideals and work of Mr. Lienhard and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

As of 2018, the Lienhard Award recipient is asked to give a lecture on a topic of their choosing. The Inaugural Lienhard Award Lecture was held on February 27, 2019. A perfected transcript and recording of the Lecture are now available, along with Dr. Stuart Altman’s slide deck. 

The 2019 Lienhard Award will be presented at the NAM’s Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, on October 21, 2019.

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History of the Award

Gustav O. Lienhard was chairman of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Board of Trustees from 1971 to 1986, a period in which the Foundation moved to the forefront of American philanthropy in health care.

Prior to Mr. Lienhard’s being named chairman of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, he had a distinguished career with Johnson & Johnson, the health and medical products company, where he began in 1932 as an accountant and retired 39 years later as president and chairman of the Executive Committee.

Robert Wood Johnson, who died in 1968 after having been chief executive officer of Johnson & Johnson during most of Mr. Lienhard’s years with the company, personally selected Mr. Lienhard to head the Foundation. During Mr. Lienhard’s 15 years at the Foundation, General Johnson’s bequest, valued at more than $1 billion, was received, a staff was assembled, and grants totaling approximately $660 million were made to improve health care in the United States.

  • Click here for selection criteria

    Each year a selection committee appointed by the National Academy of Medicine considers the following criteria when determining the recipient of the Lienhard Award.

    Principal selection criteria: 

    • Achievement in the area of personal health services, whether through clinical and/or leadership activities;
    • Innovative, creative, and pioneering achievement; and
    • Achievement of national scope. 

    Additional selection criteria:

    • Unique contributions by the nominee to that achievement;
    • Positive change over a sustained period – not simply the potential for such change – through the nominee’s achievement;
    • A qualitative and quantitative impact;
    • Success in overcoming barriers, based on resources available.

    Finally, the recipient must attend the ceremony to receive the award. The 2017 Lienhard Award was presented at NAM Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on October 16, 2017.

For more information, please email

2018 Recipient

Stuart Altman, Ph.D.
Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy
The Heller School for Social Policy and Management
Brandeis University

View the press release >>

  • Past Recipients


    Diane E. Meier, M.D.
    Professor of Geriatrics and Pallative Medicine
    Professor of Medicine
    Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital

    View the press release >> 


    David Cella, Ph.D.
    Ralph Seal Paffenbarger Professor and Chair
    Department of Medical Social Sciences
    Center for Patient-Centered Outcomes
    Institute for Public Health and Medicine
    Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

    View the press release >> 


    Robert L. Brent, M.D., Ph.D.
    Louis and Bess Stein Professor of Pediatrics
    Sidney Kimmel College of Medicine
    Thomas Jefferson University
    Head of the Developmental Biology Laboratory
    Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children

    View the Press Release>>


    Linda Aiken, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, FRCN
    Claire M. Fagin Leadership Professor in Nursing
    Professor of Sociology
    Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research
    University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

    View the press release >>

    Steven A. Schroeder, M.D.
    Distinguished Professor of Health and Health Care
    Department of Medicine
    University of California, San Francisco
    Director, Smoking Cessation Leadership Center

    for his pioneering efforts to control tobacco use, as well as his leadership in health services research, general medicine, and palliative care

    View the press release >>

    Donald M. Berwick, M.D.
    Former President and CEO
    Institute for Healthcare Improvement
    Former Administrator
    Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

    for his work to catalyze a national movement to improve health care quality and safety

    Jerold F. Lucey, M.D.
    University Scholar and Distinguished Professor in Pediatrics
    Department of Pediatrics
    University of Vermont College of Medicine

    for investigating and applying life-saving medical technologies and procedures to the care of premature infants

    Joseph A. Califano, Jr., LL.B.
    Founder and Chairman
    National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
    Columbia University

    for his leadership in catalyzing federal action to curb smoking and his broader efforts to reduce the toll of addiction and substance abuse, as well as for his contributions to improving public health in general

    Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D.
    Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery
    University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
    Director Emeritus
    Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute

    for his foundational role in pioneering and advancing transplantation science

    John E. Wennberg, M.D., M.P.H.
    Peggy Y. Thomson Chair for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences
    Founder and Director Emeritus
    Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice

    for his leading role in reshaping the U.S. health care system to focus on objective evidence and outcomes rather than physician preference as the basis for treatment decisions, and for his efforts to empower patients with greater input on decisions about their own care

    Howard H. Hiatt, M.D.
    Professor of Medicine
    Harvard Medical School

    for improving the performance of personal health services in the United States and around the world

    Aaron T. Beck, M.D.
    University Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus
    University of Pennsylvania
    Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research

    for developing the theory and practice of cognitive therapy that benefited nearly 5 million people in the United States and millions worldwide

    Robert H. Brook, M.D., Sc.D.
    Vice President and Director
    RAND Health
    Professor of Medicine and Health Services, Center for Health Sciences
    University of California, Los Angeles

    for his dedication and commitment to improving the effectiveness of health care services and shaping the discourse on health care policy

    Kenneth W. Kizer, M.D., M.P.H.
    President and CEO
    National Quality Forum

    for his transformation of the veterans health care  system to a model system of patient safety, innovation, and quality care

    B. Jaye Anno, Ph.D.
    Bernard P. Harrison, J.D.
    National Commission on Correctional Health Care

    for profound improvements in the public health and humanity of the medical systems for the incarcerated

    Kathryn E. Barnard, Ph.D., R.N.
    Director, Center on Infant Mental Health and Development
    University of Washington

    for developing evidence-based assessment and parent education protocols that are used worldwide and have revolutionized clinical practice with infants and their parents

    T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.
    President and Chairman
    Brazelton Foundation, Inc.

    for changing the understanding of infants, children, and child development during the last century, and the development of the Neonatal Behavior Assessment Scale

    Ruth Watson Lubic, R.N., C.N.M., Ed.D.
    President and Co-CEO
    District of Columbia Developing Families Center

    for pioneering work in the development of humane and innovative services for childbearing and childrearing families

    Philip R. Lee, M.D.
    Professor Emeritus
    Institute for Health Policy Studies
    University of California, San Francisco

    for his unequaled contributions to improving personal health services in the United States and abroad as practitioner, advocate, researcher, policymaker, administrator, and public leader

    Elma L. Holder, M.S.P.H.
    Founding Member
    National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform

    for bringing the needs of an underserved, often neglected and abused nursing home population to high national awareness

    H. Jack Geiger, M.D.
    Professor Emeritus
    City University of New York Medical School

    for creating a model of the contemporary American community health center to serve the poor and disadvantaged, and for his contributions to the advancements of minority health

    Lester Breslow, M.D., M.P.H.
    Dean Emeritus and Professor of Public Health
    University of California, Los Angeles

    for his contributions to the conceptual development and application of clinical preventive services in personal health care and to the development of personal health risk assessments

    Robert N. Butler, M.D.
    Professor, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

    T. Franklin Williams, M.D.
    Professor of Medicine, Emeritus
    University of Rochester School of Medicine

    for their contributions to the fields of geriatrics and gerontology

    Lawrence L. Weed, M.D.
    Professor Emeritus
    University of Vermont

    for developing the problem-oriented medical record

    Byllye Y. Avery
    National Black Women’s Health Project

    for her pioneering effort to improve health care services for women

    David E. Rogers, M.D.
    Walsh McDermott University Professor of Medicine
    Cornell University Medical College

    for leadership in advancing personal health care services

    C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D.
    McInerney Professor of Surgery
    Dartmouth Medical School

    Faye G. Abdellah, Ed.D., Sc.D., R.N.
    Chair, Nursing Task Force
    Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

    for leadership in promoting health in the public arena

    Robert M. Ball, M.A.
    Visiting Scholar
    National Academy of Social Insurance

    for his contribution in establishing Medicare as part of the social security system

    Henry K. Silver, M.D.
    Associate Dean for Student Admissions
    University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

    Loretta C. Ford, Ed.D., R.N.
    Professor and Dean Emerita
    School of Nursing, University of Rochester

    for fostering the concept of the nurse practitioner

    Robert J. Haggerty, M.D.
    William T. Grant Foundation

    for carrying the concept of neighborhood health centers into the practice of “family medicine” as an indispensable aspect of primary care

    Marie-Louis Ansak
    Executive Director
    On Lok Senior Health Services

    for pioneering work in nonprofit comprehensive care, as founder of On Lok Senior Health Services, a day-care center for the frail elderly

    Ernest W. Saward, M.D.
    Professor of Social Medicine, Emeritus
    University of Rochester Medical Center

    for his leadership in the establishment of prepaid group health plans

    Julius B. Richmond, M.D.
    Professor of Health Policy, Emeritus
    Harvard University

    for his role as architect of federal programs for Head Start and Neighborhood Health Centers in the 1960s and 1970s


For more information, please email