Changing the World with Compassion and Collaboration

As a medical student in the inner city of Chicago, Dr. James Weinstein ’72 loved interacting with and treating his patients. Finding it “incredibly rewarding, challenging, and redeeming,” he cared for an underserved population. “I was given the opportunity to stay up all night and save a life,” he said. Most often, he explained, there were no relatives or friends present to comfort the patients.

Internationally renowned spine surgeon Weinstein, CEO and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System, returned to the Bradley campus in 2009 to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award. At Bradley, he majored in chemistry and enjoyed campus life. “Bradley can produce national leaders in their fields,” he said. “You don’t have to go to Harvard. With intelligence and the ability to work with other people, you can make an impact.”

Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) released a video in 2013 featuring its patients and staff lip-syncing to Katy Perry’s hit song “Roar.” The video has gone viral and includes a cameo by Dr. Weinstein. Perry said of the tribute, “I’m just glad that [the song] helps empower people and helps them find their strength.” View the video at

Depending on whom you ask, the qualities of great leaders are many and varied. In Weinstein’s multiple roles — physician, CEO, thought leader, researcher, editor in chief of the international journal Spine — he said that his understanding of those pathways, jobs, and opportunities have allowed him to be a better leader. “I see the world through other people’s eyes,” he said. “I take the knowledge in different areas and apply it to try to find solutions to the U.S. healthcare system, focusing on the bigger solutions on a bigger scale.”

Weinstein worked with colleagues nationally to create a consortium of health systems called the High Value Healthcare Collaborative (HVHC) in 2010. The nonprofit is composed of more than 20 organizations including Mayo Clinic, Intermountain, Denver Health, and The Dartmouth Institute among others in 38 states with 100 million patients, Weinstein said. “People do not have a clear direction nor do they see a path forward in the healthcare plan as to what needs to happen, beyond an understanding that a larger number of people will be insured, so they are lost,” he continued. “The real issue and the larger question is, ‘What are we doing to build a national health system that is sustainable and meets the needs of the people it is meant to serve?’”  

True to his collaborative nature, he knows that the solution to the country’s healthcare problem does not lie within one person but rather needs to encompass a scope of knowledge that transcends an individual. “You must align yourself with other disciplines, as the sum is always greater than its parts,” he said.

The goals of HVHC are to improve care, improve health, and reduce costs by identifying and accelerating widespread adoption of best practice care models and innovative value-based payment models. The consortium is developing a very specific, spelled-out plan.

HVHC’s elaborate and well-thought-out plan has some public exposure now but will unfold on a grander scale this year. Weinstein said that although the current healthcare plan may have important pieces that contribute to a solution, by itself, it is not the solution.

Weinstein also founded the Center for Shared Decision Making at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in 1999. The center is a rich source of data on patient decision-making and interactions with the healthcare system. Most importantly, it seeks to make patients and families partners in their own care decisions by providing them with evidence-based information about treatments and therapies. “Patients, when well-informed, often make very different choices about their care paths,” Weinstein said. “We know from our research that informed choice results in better clinical outcomes and better patient satisfaction.”

Noting the poor results of recent math and science test scores among U.S. students, Weinstein draws similarities between higher education and healthcare including challenges such as technology, the cost and diversity of experience for students, diversity of knowledge, and diversity in populations served. “I think people need to talk enough together to solve problems,” he said. “People tend to get locked in their own space without seeing potential solutions in another’s space.”

In addition to his outward approach to problem solving, a colleague of Weinstein points out his strong sense of curiosity and desire to learn and apply what he knows for the greater good. His curiosity, combined with an unparalleled compassion for others, makes Weinstein an excellent role model to the next generation of leaders, innovators and medical professionals. 

In Weinstein’s world, the 4 Ps are passion, persistence, pursuit of knowledge, and the desire to solve the world’s problems. Unequivocally, Weinstein demonstrates these qualities to the highest degree in his many roles as a change agent.

— Susan Andrews
Photography courtesy Dartmouth-Hitchcock