Dennis S. O’Leary, MD, is President Emeritus of The Joint Commission, the leading healthcare accrediting body in the United States. Under his leadership, The Joint Commission has successfully transformed its accreditation process to focus on actual organization performance in the provision of patient care. This transformation set the stage for the progressive introduction of care-related outcomes and process measures, as well as national patient safety goals, into the accreditation process. Dr. O’Leary has also overseen the introduction of cutting-edge standards relating to patient safety, pain management, use of patient restraints, and emergency preparedness. And in recent years, he has spearheaded the launching of a series of The Joint Commission public policy initiatives. These have addressed the nurse staffing crisis, health professions educational reform, health literacy, and the nexus between patient safety and the tort system, among others.
During Dr. O’Leary’s 21-year tenure as its president, The Joint Commission has expanded its programmatic purview to encompass the mainstream of the U.S. healthcare delivery system. Beyond its original hospital base, The Joint Commission now accredits a full range of extended care and ambulatory care services. Its growing business portfolio now also encompasses international accreditation and consultation services, including a series of projects with the World Health Organization. This progressive growth has led to a quadrupling of The Joint Commission’s budget and staff since 1986.
Prior to joining The Joint Commission, O’Leary served as Dean for Clinical Affairs at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and Vice President of the George Washington University Health Plan, an academic HMO. During his 15-year tenure at George Washington, he achieved the faculty rank of Professor of Medicine and served as Medical Director of the University Hospital for more than a decade.
O’Leary is highly active in a variety of professional activities. He earlier served as President and Chairman of the Board of the District of Columbia Medical Society and was a founding member of the National Capital Area Health Care Coalition. Since coming to The Joint Commission, he has become a Master of the American College of Physicians; an initial Fellow of the American College of Physician Executives; an Honorary Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives; an honorary member of the American Dental Association; and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. O’Leary is a non-voting liaison member of the board of directors of the National Quality Forum and previously served as a member of the National Advisory Council of the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research. In 2000, he was identified by Modern Healthcare as “one of the 25 most influential leaders in health care” during the past quarter century.
O’Leary earned his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in New York and his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. After two years of internal medicine training at the University of Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis, he completed his residency and hematology fellowship at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Hematology.