Section Chief's Welcome

David Meltzer,M.D., Ph.D.

Hospital Medicine is a field within internal medicine in which physicians, “Hospitalists,” focus their practice on the care of patients who have been admitted to the hospital. The University of Chicago’s Program in Hospital Medicine was founded in 1997, making it one of the oldest in the U.S. In 2008, we became one of the first Hospital Medicine programs in the nation.

When the Section was founded, we focused solely on the care of patients using traditional academic general medicine teaching services. Our clinical roles have grown over the years; in partnership with advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, and specialists, we expanded our practice to include direct care of hospitalized patients. Together, we manage a range of subspecialty patients, provide 24/7 coverage, and run the general medicine consult service. Our clinicians also provide leadership within a new Advanced Practice Service (APS), serving patients who are expected to have relatively short and predictable hospital stays.

Although clinical needs have been the driving force behind the growth of hospital medicine nationally, the University of Chicago Section of Hospital Medicine has always had a major academic focus on research, quality improvement, and teaching. For example, since 1997, we have systematically collected data on more than 100,000 hospitalized patients and have attempted to understand the factors that influence the care they receive, while improving their outcomes. This work has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI).

One of the major findings of our research is that hospitalists can help control the costs of care and improve patient outcomes, but only as hospitalists gain experience. In this young profession, physicians are often engaged in intense clinical work over weekends and nights, and many hospitals have had high turnover rates among their hospitalists. At the University of Chicago, we have developed a set of initiatives – including our Hospitalist Scholars Program – to allow physicians the time to develop sustainable academic careers as researchers and leaders in clinical care, quality improvement, and medical education. The success of these programs is reflected in the papers and other scholarly products produced by our team. It is also measured by the local and national leadership roles and awards that our hospitalists have received, and their success in securing competitive career development and research funding.