Robert S. Dittus

Robert S. Dittus

Executive Vice President, Public Health and Health Care
Senior Associate Dean for Population Health Sciences
Albert and Bernard Werthan Professor of Medicine
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Vice President
Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network
BSIE '73

For his extraordinary leadership in the field of health care, with emphasis on an enhanced delivery system, that has improved treatment for millions of people.

Robert Dittus has combined training in industrial engineering, medicine and epidemiology to improve human health through his research on the effectiveness, efficiency, timeliness, safety and equity of health care.

He has advanced medical decision-making and conducted numerous studies comparing strategies for clinical care. He also has guided the discovery of long-term cognitive impairment associated with critical illness, and has developed new treatments that have reduced mortality on a global scale. His measures also have reduced critical-care costs.

Dittus says a health-systems engineering course with Professor Steven Roberts was his first step toward a medical career because it led to a summer job at the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University Medical Center.

“Toward the end of the summer, after working on a simulation cost-effectiveness model, examining, mapping and improving patient flow in several clinics and helping to design a new emergency room, I was in Professor Roberts’ office when he received a call from a South American country asking for his help in redesigning their national health care system,” Dittus remembers. “At that moment, I decided I would merge a professional career in medicine with engineering and public health to improve the quality and efficiency of health care, and acquire the skills to be able to redesign health care systems — a career ‘north star’ from which I have never deviated.”

Dittus was the principal investigator for a large project to improve care through coordination of health care delivery. He has led or been a co-investigator for more than $300 million in research and training funding and authored over 200 publications. He also has trained over 100 fellows and junior faculty of whom over 80% remain in academic medicine.

Dittus has served as the president of the Association for Clinical Research Training and received the Distinguished Educator Award from the Association for Clinical and Translational Science. He has been named Teaching and Research Scholar of the American College of Physicians and the Harvey Branscomb Distinguished Professor at Vanderbilt University. He also has received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Indiana University, the Tyroler Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of North Carolina, the Duncan Neuhauser Award for Curricular Innovation from the Academy for Healthcare Improvement, and the Innovation with Distinction Award in Research Training and Education from the Association of American Medical Colleges. He is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians.

Dittus says his approach to his research in health care has been greatly influenced by what he learned at Purdue.

“Purdue provided me with a point of view, a paradigm, strategies and techniques to systematically examine problems at a micro and macro level, and to design, implement and evaluate interdisciplinary solutions widely applicable to many areas of focus, including health care.”

The measure of a man is one who lends a hand.”

"What You Give Away," song by Vince Gill

Career Highlights

2020-present Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Vice President, Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network
2016-2020 Executive Vice President, Public Health and Health Care, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
2011-2020 Senior Associate Dean, Population Health Sciences, Vanderbilt
2011-2016 Associate Vice Chancellor, Public Health and Health Care, Vanderbilt
2006-2020 Director, Institute for Medicine and Public Health, Vanderbilt
2000-2011 Director, Vanderbilt Center for Health Services Research
1999-present Director, Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare System
1998-present Senior Quality Scholar and Director, Quality Scholars Program, Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare System
1997-present Albert and Bernard Werthan Professor of Medicine, Vanderbilt
1997-2011 Chief, Division of Internal Medicine, Vanderbilt
1984-1997 Assistant, Associate and Professor of Medicine; Director, Clinical Practice Analysis, Regenstrief Institute, Indiana University


1973 BSIE, Purdue University
1978 MD, Indiana University
1984 MPH, University of North Carolina