Dartmouth Medical School
Dr. H. Gilbert Welch is a professor of medicine and community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, and co-director of the VA Outcomes Group in the department of veterans affairs in White River Junction, Vermont. He is also co-director of the Center for Medicine and the Media at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.
Dr. Welch was raised in Boulder, Colorado, and majored in economics at Harvard College (1976). He eventually obtained a medical degree at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in 1982 (after taking a year off to teach high school math in North Andover, Massachusetts, and another to work as a disc-jockey, salesman and news director for a country radio station in Thermopolis, Wyoming). After completing a rotating internship in western Pennsylvania, Dr. Welch was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Public Health Service. He served for two years at a 50-bed hospital in Bethel, Alaska, and volunteered for various short tours in subsequent years: at other Indian Health Service sites (Warm Springs, Oregon,, and Navajo Nation, Chinle, Arizona), covering physicians in the National Health Service Corps (Copalis Beach, Washington and Dungannon, Virginia) and serving as a ship's physician on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel Oceanographer. Dr. Welch completed internal medicine residency training at the University of Utah (1977) and was a VA Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Washington (1990).
Dr. Welch moved to Northern New England in 1990 to join Dr. John Wennberg at the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth Medical School. In 1991, he was named a senior research associate in the VA Career Development Program. Working with Dr. Elliott Fisher, he created the VA Outcomes Group, a small research group and fellowship housed in the White River Junction Veterans Affairs Hospital. Dr. Welch has been elected as a fellow of the American College of Physicians and to the American Society for Clinical Investigation. In 2001-2002, Dr. Welch received the Visiting Scientist Award at the International Agency for Research on Cancer - the cancer section of the World Health Organization in Lyon, France.
For the 20 years he has been practicing medicine, Dr. Welch has also been asking hard questions about his profession. He has published on a variety of topics: health policy for bone marrow and organ transplantation, health care for the uninsured, geographic variation, physician profiling and diagnostic testing. His arguments are frequently counter-intuitive, even heretical, yet have regularly appeared in the country's most prestigious medical journals - Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute - as well as op-eds and essays in major newspapers.
His current research has focused on the problems created by medicine's efforts to detect disease early: physicians test too often, treat too aggressively and tell too many people that they are sick - and its' leading newspapers. Most of this work has focused on overdiagnosis in cancer screening: in particular, screening for melanoma, cervical, thyroid, breast and prostate cancer. He has published a book summarizing the issues, Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here's Why (UC Press, March 2004) which has recently been translated into French. He is now working with colleagues (Drs. Lisa Schwartz and Steve Woloshin) on a second book, Overdiagnosis: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health, based on an essay he published in the New York Times.
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