Press Release

James W. Varnum to Receive AHA Award of Honor

The American Hospital Association (AHA) will present its Award of Honor to James W. Varnum, hospital president at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, N.H. in recognition of his outstanding contributions to improving the health status of communities and the nation. The award recognizes exemplary contributions to the health and well-being of people through leadership on major health policies or social initiatives.  Varnum will receive the award at a ceremony on Monday, May 1 at AHA’s annual membership meeting in Washington.

Varnum has been president of Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital at DHMC since 1978 and president of the Dartmouth Hitchcock Alliance (DHA) since 1983.  The DHA, which he founded, now counts 11 hospitals and care providers as its members and has strengthened community-based care in New Hampshire and Vermont.  He will retire in April 2006 after 27 years of service and leadership at MHMH.

“Jim has brought innovative changes to his health care system and the broader communities he serves,” said AHA President Dick Davidson.  “Jim’s leadership and work nationally, regionally and within Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has transformed health care delivery, lowered costs and brought about partnerships in education, recruitment, quality improvement, information systems and patient safety.  His work has helped reshape how hospitals think about health care delivery.”

Varnum served on the AHA Board of Trustees 1994-1997 and, most recently, on the AHA’s Patient’s Bill of Rights task force (2001-2002).  He has served on the Boards of Directors of several New Hampshire, Vermont and national health care organizations, including VHA, Inc., VHA New England, New Hampshire Hospital Association, National Quality Forum and the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association.  He is also a professor at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H.

Varnum graduated from Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., in 1962 with an economics degree and graduated with honors from the University of Michigan with a master’s in hospital administration.  He has received several awards in recognition of his leadership, including the American College of Healthcare Executives Regent’s Award, New Hampshire Chapter; and the Dartmouth Medical School C. Everett Koop, M.D. Courage Award, both in 2005.  He and his wife, Cindy, live in Etna, N.H. Jordon J. Cohen, M.D., president of the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, also will receive the Award of Honor this year.

Previous Award of Honor winners include individuals such as Sister Mary Jean Ryan, president and CEO of SSM Health in St. Louis, Mo., Ron Anderson, president and CEO, Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, Steven A. Schroeder, M.D., former president and CEO of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Donald M. Berwick, M.D., president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  Organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and Habitat for Humanity also have been honored.

About the AHA

The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which include nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 43,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at

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