David Meltzer Elected to National Academy of Medicine

David Meltzer, MD, PhD, a Chicago Harris professor who has joint appointments with the University of Chicago departments of medicine and economics, has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine (NAM).
Meltzer serves as chief of the Section of Hospital Medicine, director of the Center for Health and the Social Sciences, chair of the Committee on Clinical and Translational Science, and director of the University of Chicago Urban Health Lab. His research focuses on the cost and quality of care, using economic analysis to address problems in health economics and public policy.
As a member, Meltzer looks forward to serving on committees that determine what the National Academy of Medicine will study and how it will do so. “It’s a new responsibility and opportunity to have a productive influence,” he says. “Involvement in the National Academies is a wonderful way for academics to work outside the government but also have an impact on the information that policymakers have available.”
A national leader in the study of the recently minted specialty of hospital medicine, Meltzer leads the University of Chicago’s Hospitalist Scholars Program, which trains hospitalists and researches the economics behind the rise of this specialty. He has also pioneered the construction of the Comprehensive Care Model, which leverages the strength of the doctor-patient relationship to improve outcomes and control costs by having doctors provide both inpatient and outpatient care for those at greater risk of hospitalization.
Meltzer figures he gained notice in the NAM for this work, as well as research into the theoretical foundations of medical cost-effectiveness analysis: how costs change when interventions extend life, and how to use these techniques for research prioritization and value information analysis. “My work on cost-effectiveness analysis is known to a wide range of people,” he says, “and then my work on hospitalists, using data from real practice within a 'learning health care sytem' to improve the quality and outcomes of care, an idea that’s closely tied to the [NAM].”
Meltzer’s involvement in the NAM began early in his career when he was asked to serve on a committee examining the allocation of organs in the United States, the lack of sharing across state lines and the economics involved. Meltzer contributed the insight that studying the differences in allocation efficiency between larger and smaller areas designated for organ procurement could show whether opening up sharing throughout the country—and gaining that larger scale—would have a positive impact for patients.
“It seemed possible that sharing could help everyone, but there was very little data to inform this,” he says. By demonstrating that larger designated areas performed better in this regard than smaller ones, Meltzer says, “We were able to show very clearly that greater sharing would translate into better outcomes. And that influenced policy throughout the United States. That was one of the most satisfying professional experiences I’ve ever had, and I’ve been involved in many other studies since then.”
Indeed, that first experience whetted Meltzer’s appetite for more, and his election to the NAM will enable him to feast on new research and leadership opportunities. “It was nice to be nominated and elected,” he says. “I believe in the work the academy does. I believe we can do greater work in public policy. I do this work because it’s intellectually interesting but also because I want to be able to make a difference.”
Considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, membership in the NAM recognizes those with outstanding professional achievements and commitment to service in advancing the medical sciences, healthcare and public health.
Meltzer was one of 70 members nationwide named to the academy at its annual meeting on Oct. 19, and one of two at the University of Chicago. Joining him in this distinction was Melissa Lynn Gilliam, MD, MPH, dean for diversity and inclusion and professor in the departments of obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics.
The National Academy of Medicine is an honorific and advisory organization. Established as the Institute of Medicine in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, it is recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on health issues.
With the two new appointments, there are now 13 current or emeritus University of Chicago faculty members who belong to the NAM. This year’s selection of 70 national and 10 international members raises NAM’s total active membership to 1,826.

Ed Finkel