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.

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.

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 MedicineProfessor of MedicineIcahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital

View the press release >> 


David Cella, Ph.D.Ralph Seal Paffenbarger Professor and ChairDepartment of Medical Social SciencesDirectorCenter for Patient-Centered OutcomesInstitute for Public Health and MedicineNorthwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

View the press release >> 


Robert L. Brent, M.D., Ph.D.Louis and Bess Stein Professor of PediatricsSidney Kimmel College of MedicineThomas Jefferson UniversityHead of the Developmental Biology LaboratoryNemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children

View the Press Release>>


Linda Aiken, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, FRCNClaire M. Fagin Leadership Professor in NursingProfessor of SociologyDirector of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy ResearchUniversity of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

View the press release >>

2013Steven A. Schroeder, M.D.Distinguished Professor of Health and Health CareDepartment of MedicineUniversity of California, San FranciscoDirector, 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 >>

2012Donald M. Berwick, M.D.Former President and CEOInstitute for Healthcare ImprovementFormer AdministratorCenters for Medicare & Medicaid Services

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

2011Jerold F. Lucey, M.D.University Scholar and Distinguished Professor in PediatricsDepartment of PediatricsUniversity of Vermont College of Medicine

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

2010Joseph A. Califano, Jr., LL.B.Founder and ChairmanNational Center on Addiction and Substance AbuseColumbia 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

2009Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D.Distinguished Service Professor of SurgeryUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicineDirector EmeritusThomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute

for his foundational role in pioneering and advancing transplantation science

2008John E. Wennberg, M.D., M.P.H.Peggy Y. Thomson Chair for the Evaluative Clinical SciencesFounder and Director EmeritusDartmouth 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

2007Howard H. Hiatt, M.D.Professor of MedicineHarvard Medical School

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

2006 Aaron T. Beck, M.D.University Professor of Psychiatry EmeritusUniversity of PennsylvaniaPresidentBeck 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

2005 Robert H. Brook, M.D., Sc.D.Vice President and DirectorRAND HealthProfessor of Medicine and Health Services, Center for Health SciencesUniversity 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

2004Kenneth W. Kizer, M.D., M.P.H.President and CEONational Quality Forum

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

2003B. Jaye Anno, Ph.D. Bernard P. Harrison, J.D.Co-foundersNational Commission on Correctional Health Care

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

2002Kathryn E. Barnard, Ph.D., R.N.Director, Center on Infant Mental Health and DevelopmentUniversity 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 ChairmanBrazelton 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

2001 Ruth Watson Lubic, R.N., C.N.M., Ed.D.President and Co-CEODistrict of Columbia Developing Families Center

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

2000Philip R. Lee, M.D.Professor EmeritusInstitute for Health Policy StudiesUniversity 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

1999 Elma L. Holder, M.S.P.H.Founding MemberNational Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform

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

1998 H. Jack Geiger, M.D.Professor EmeritusCity 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

1997 Lester Breslow, M.D., M.P.H.Dean Emeritus and Professor of Public HealthUniversity 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

1996 Robert N. Butler, M.D.Professor, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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

for their contributions to the fields of geriatrics and gerontology

1995 Lawrence L. Weed, M.D.Professor EmeritusUniversity of Vermont

for developing the problem-oriented medical record

1994 Byllye Y. AveryFounderNational Black Women’s Health Project

for her pioneering effort to improve health care services for women

1993 David E. Rogers, M.D.Walsh McDermott University Professor of MedicineCornell University Medical College

for leadership in advancing personal health care services

1992 C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D.McInerney Professor of SurgeryDartmouth Medical School

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

for leadership in promoting health in the public arena

1991Robert M. Ball, M.A.Visiting ScholarNational Academy of Social Insurance

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

1990 Henry K. Silver, M.D.Associate Dean for Student AdmissionsUniversity of Colorado Health Sciences Center

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

for fostering the concept of the nurse practitioner

1989 Robert J. Haggerty, M.D.PresidentWilliam T. Grant Foundation

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

1988 Marie-Louis AnsakExecutive DirectorOn 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

1987Ernest W. Saward, M.D.Professor of Social Medicine, EmeritusUniversity of Rochester Medical Center

for his leadership in the establishment of prepaid group health plans

1986Julius B. Richmond, M.D.Professor of Health Policy, EmeritusHarvard University

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

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