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HL20: Jeffrey Brenner, MD—Providing Better Care to Complex Patients

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, November 25, 2013

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is the story of Jeffrey Brenner, MD.

This profile was published in the December, 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

"Healthcare is incredibly expensive, and we are not getting our money's worth."

Jeffrey Brenner, MD, the founder and executive director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and the medical director for the Urban Health Institute at Cooper Hospital, both in Camden, N.J.—one of the poorest communities in the country—became interested in providing primary care to highly complex patients as a medical student working in an inner-city free clinic.

While training alongside a passionate physician and mentor, Brenner says he realized how important it is to take the time to build strong relationships with patients who have complicated barriers to care. "I saw how transformative it was to patients' lives."

Soon after, Brenner began working at a student-run health clinic, and that experience changed the trajectory of his career.

"I loved taking care of complex patients who really need good medical care. … I thought primary care was boring and mundane, but it is actually more complex than any other specialty if you bring science and rigor to it. It was an 'a-ha' moment for me. I was going to get a PhD in neuroscience, but I switched off that and got very interested in the science of healthcare delivery and the science of primary care."

Today, Brenner focuses his work on improving care for patients who use a disproportionately high amount of hospital and emergency services, a group he calls superutilizers.

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