Fairfield University 1987 graduate among 25 new MacArthur Fellows announced today


Single phone call announces $500,000 - no strings attached

Image: Dr Peter PronovostThe John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today named 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2008, including Dr. Peter Pronovost, a 1987 graduate of Fairfield University whose innovative interventions as a critical care physician have saved countless lives.

Dr. Pronovost learned in a single phone call from the Foundation that he will receive $500,000 in "no strings attached" support over the next five years. Among the other recipients are a neurobiologist, a saxophonist, an urban farmer, an optical physicist, a sculptor, a geriatrician, a historian of medicine, and an inventor of musical instruments.

"As a group, this new class of Fellows takes one's breath away, said Daniel J. Socolow, Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program. "Each is an original, and each confirms that the creative individual is alive and well, at the cutting edge, and at work to make our world a better place."

Dr. Pronovost, a professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine and director of Quality and Safety Research Group at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, devises life-saving clinical practices that are dramatically improving patient safety in hospitals across the United States. As both a clinician and an academic researcher, he takes scientific evidence to the bedside and motivates health care professionals in large health systems - including hospital CEOs, intensive care specialists, residents, nurses, and other health care staff - to change the culture of their institutions in the interest of reducing the risk of medical errors and hospital-acquired infections.

Fr. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., president of Fairfield University, said, "We are so proud of the important advances Peter has made in improving the survival rate among critical care patients and applaud his selection as a MacArthur Fellow. His creativity and commitment to improving the lives of patients represent the finest qualities of a Jesuit education and we wish him the very best as he continues this vital work."

One of Dr. Pronovost's most notable contributions to date resulted from his focus on bloodstream infections from central venous catheters used in intensive care units (ICUs). To address this all-too-common problem, responsible for thousands of deaths each year, he culled lengthy guidelines into a simple checklist of five precautionary steps and tested its efficacy through a cohort study conducted in ICUs throughout the state of Michigan. His checklist intervention yielded a significant and sizeable decrease in rates of infection and is currently being replicated by hospitals across the U.S. and Europe.

A press release issued by the MacArthur Foundation said, "By rigorously evaluating and skillfully implementing effective safety procedures, Dr. Pronovost is sparing countless lives from the often deadly consequences of human error and setting new standards of health care performance in the United States and internationally."

Other projects that Dr. Pronovost is working on include the development of a web-based ICU safety reporting system, methods for minimizing the incidence of aspiration pneumonia and acute lung injury in patients receiving ventilator assistance, and quality care measures for patients suffering from severe sepsis.

"The MacArthur Fellows Program celebrates extraordinarily creative individuals who inspire new heights in human achievement," said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton. "With their boldness, courage, and uncommon energy, this new group of Fellows, men and women of all ages in diverse fields, exemplifies the boundless nature of the human mind and spirit."

MacArthur Fellowships offer the opportunity for Fellows to accelerate their current activities or take their work in new directions. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors. The extraordinary creativity of MacArthur Fellows knows neither boundaries nor the constraints of age, place, and endeavor.

The MacArthur Fellows Program was the first major grantmaking initiative of the Foundation. The inaugural class of MacArthur Fellows was named in 1981. Including this year's Fellows, 781 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been named MacArthur Fellows since the program began.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grantmaking institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media. With assets of over $6 billion and grants totaling $225 million annually, MacArthur is one of the nation's largest private philanthropic foundations. For more information or to sign-up for a monthly e-newsletter please visit www.macfound.org.

Fairfield University is a Jesuit University, rooted in one of the world's oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 35 states, 46 foreign countries, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are enrolled in the University's six schools. In the spirit of rigorous and sympathetic inquiry into all dimensions of human experience, Fairfield welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to share ideas and engage in open conversations. The University is located in the heart of a region where the future takes shape, on a stunning campus on the Connecticut coast.

Photo courtesy of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 23, 2008

Vol. 41, No. 63

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