Change Agent

Ann B. Nattinger, MD, MPH

Dr. Nattinger is senior associate dean for research at MCW, Lady Riders Professor of Breast Cancer Research and professor of medicine.

Ann B. Nattinger, MD, MPHAn ardent proponent of research in academic medicine, Dr. Nattinger stepped into the role of senior associate dean for research at MCW in October 2015. She had previously served the organization for 15 years as division chief of general internal medicine and founded the Center for Patient Care and Outcomes Research (PCOR) in 2001.

Nationally recognized for her cancer health services research, Dr. Nattinger pioneered the use of population data in the study of breast cancer care, survivorship and outcomes. Her research has included the study of geographic and demographic variations in treatment of breast cancer, socioeconomic disparities in outcomes and the effect of health policy interventions on quality of care.

Dr. Nattinger's research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the American Cancer Society, and she has authored or co-authored more than 170 scientific papers, abstracts and book chapters. Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Nattinger received the esteemed designation of "Master" of medicine from the American College of Physicians in 2012, in recognition of her leadership and excellence in the areas of cancer research and women's health. In that same year, MCW awarded Dr. Nattinger its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

– Elizabeth Setterfield

What Drives You?

As a physician, I have always been driven by my desire to improve medical care. My research focuses on the science of healthcare delivery – that is, how to deliver healthcare that is equitable, efficient and optimizes the patient's outcomes. As senior associate dean for research, I focus on how MCW can get the most from its investment in research. The end goal is still improving patient outcomes.

What Has Been the Highlight of Your Career?

I have published two first-author articles in the New England Journal of Medicine, which have been career highlights. Another has been the privilege of serving my patients as a primary care internist. I also love to mentor, and am thrilled when those I mentor get an NIH grant, write an important paper or make an astute diagnosis.

What Do You Still Hope to Accomplish Over Your Career?

Right now, MCW ranks in the upper one-third of medical schools for NIH funding. I would love to see MCW move into the upper one-fourth. With the help of our Advancing Healthier Wisconsin (AHW) Endowment, I think we can do this. It would be very valuable for southeastern Wisconsin, as every $1 million in research funding makes scientific findings that ultimately save lives and also, on average, supports jobs for 17.5 people.

What Would You Like Your MCW Legacy to Be?

I hope my clinical contributions endure, both through my patients and through those I have helped to train. I hope to leave MCW a stronger research infrastructure and to have helped MCW be the best we can be – through my leadership of the division of general internal medicine and the PCOR Center, by advancing women's leadership and by helping AHW and MCW make wise research investments.

What One Piece of Advice Would You Like to Share With Your Colleagues?

H. L. Mencken once said, "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." For important problems, we cannot assume that what seems logical will be correct. Healthcare providers often assume we know the best ways to organize healthcare processes to deliver high-quality care, but we need to test our assumptions.


Change Agent highlights a Medical College of Wisconsin faculty or staff member who has had significant impact on the institution's mission to be a leading innovator in transforming healthcare and advancing the health of our communities.

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