Appointment of Richard C. Wender, MD, as Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

July 23, 2020

To:Penn Medicine Faculty, Students, and Staff

From:J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
Kevin B. Mahoney

It is with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Richard C. Wender, MD, as Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Dr. Wender, who was Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University for 12 years and formerly served as the Chief Cancer Control Officer for the American Cancer Society, is currently Professor of Family and Community Medicine at Jefferson. His appointment, following an extensive national search, takes effect August 17.

Created in 1996, the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health takes a leading role in providing continuing and comprehensive health care to individuals and families in our local community.  In addition to delivering excellent primary care and community health services, the Department provides strong residency, fellowship, medical student education, and research programs. As a locus for Penn Medicine’s public and community health initiatives, the Department has strong ties with the University-wide Center for Public Health Initiatives, Masters of Public Health Program, and other public health activities.

Now more than ever, primary care is centrally important to Penn Medicine’s mission. Over the past few years, we have taken major steps to expand, align, and strengthen our primary care services and community health activities. We would like to thank Matthew Press, MD, MSc, for his important contributions to these efforts as Interim Department Chair since August 2018.  As was recently announced, Dr. Press will serve as Physician Executive of Penn Primary Care and Medical Director of the Primary Care Service Line and will be a close partner with Dr. Wender in enhancing the Department’s impact.

Dr. Wender has articulated an exciting vision to expand the Department’s clinical and non-clinical health services, educational opportunities and research, with a focus on elevating engagement within our West Philadelphia community to address health disparities and to serve as a national model.

Dr. Wender is superbly qualified to lead the Department to its next level of excellence in all of its mission areas. From 2002 through 2013, he was the Alumni Professor and Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Jefferson. Prior to being selected as Chair, Dr. Wender served as Director of the Family Medicine Residency program for 13 years and Vice-Chair of the Department for 7 years. Dr. Wender’s tenure as Chair included the formation of multiple partnerships dedicated to the pursuit of health equity and social justice. His leadership was transformative. Notably, the Department’s clinical practice became the first large academic practice in the nation to earn certification as a level 3 Patient–Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and participated in some of the initial Medicare Demonstration Projects following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Under his leadership, the Department created the Division of Geriatric Medicine, which subsequently expanded into the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care, becoming Jefferson’s first dedicated palliative care program. The Department also collaborated in the development of one of the nation’s first geriatric-oncology programs. In addition, the Department expanded its research program, cracking the top 20 for NIH funding for departments of family medicine. In addition to his leadership as Department Chair, Dr. Wender led multiple programs and organizations within the Jefferson Health System, including serving as President of Jefferson Medical Care, a network of owned practices, and the President of Jefferson Health Care, the institution’s physician-hospital organization.

Dr. Wender is a recognized national leader within the discipline of Family Medicine, having served as President of the Association of Departments of Family Medicine from 2010 – 2012, and as Chair of the Association’s Board from 2012-2013. He is also a leading voice in the area of cancer screening and prevention through his 35 year-long association with the American Cancer Society, (ACS). Dr. Wender was the first primary care clinician to serve on the ACS Board National Board and in 2006 became the first primary care physician to be elected National President of the Society. From 2013 -2020, he served as the Society’s first Chief Cancer Control officer. In this capacity, he led the organization’s domestic and global prevention, early detection, and access to high quality care strategy and implementation. With his leadership, ACS launched two major public health campaigns -- 80% by 2018 and Mission: HPV Cancer Free. His ACS team secured over $60 million in grants, including multiple grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. One of these grants fueled the development of a comprehensive approach to tackling the social determinants of health in the pursuit of health equity.

Dr. Wender earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University, his MD from Penn, and completed his family medicine residency at Jefferson. He has authored more than 100 articles and chapters and has co-authored several cancer screening guidelines and an American Diabetes Association guideline for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Honored numerous times for his leadership in medicine and his clinical skills, Dr. Wender has been recognized with the Laurel for Cancer Prevention Leadership from the Prevent Cancer Foundation and the St. George Medal from the American Cancer Society. In 2017, Dr. Wender received the MM&M Platinum Award for Outstanding Contribution to Healthcare. A practicing family physician throughout his career, Dr. Wender was named Practitioner of the Year by the Philadelphia Medical Society in 2012.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Wender as the next Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. We are grateful to Dr. Timothy R. Dillingham, MD, who chaired the Search Committee.