Educator John Heffner, M.D., to retire in June

Feb. 19, 2014

John Heffner

John Heffner, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care physician and popular medical educator, announced that he will retire from Providence this summer. Dr. Heffner is the 2006-2014 Garnjobst Chair of Graduate Medical Education for Providence Portland Medical Center, where he oversees the residency program and teaching clinic, Providence Medical Group-Northeast.

Over the past eight years, Dr. Heffner gained a reputation as a leader who creates new leaders. The residency program's faculty members have been published in medical journals, earned academic appointments at Oregon Health & Science University and played pivotal roles in improving health care delivery across the region.

“Dr. Heffner's influence on graduate medical education in Oregon has been remarkable,” says Lisa Vance, a senior vice president for Providence Health & Services. “He has used his knowledge and engagement of others to guide the program, and to meet the needs of today's patients and residents. One example that comes to mind is how he encouraged the integration of digital tools into the curriculum. I know I benefited personally from his experience and mentoring.”

One of Dr. Heffner's priorities was to align the residency program with the Triple Aim, which calls for affordable, quality care that improves the health of the communities that Providence serves.

“Resident education is Job One for the faculty,” Dr. Heffner says. “But they're also asked to make considerable contributions to health care innovation that's aligned with Providence's broader vision, especially toward rooting out waste and improving clinical efficiency.”

Faculty members have played key roles in educating the public and other providers on smoking cessation, managing persistent pain, improving diabetes care, using social media, advancing the medical home model and advocating for antibiotic stewardship in hospitals and clinics.

In the past few years faculty members have spearheaded projects to increase osteoporosis screenings, provide greater access to colon cancer screening for low-income Oregonians and reduce the number of no-shows at PMG-Northeast. The education department was instrumental in changing an Oregon law to allow standard HIV testing in emergency departments.

Dr. Heffner earned his medical degree at University of California, Los Angeles. He completed his residency at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where he also finished a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine.

Besides his work at Providence, Dr. Heffner is professor of medicine at OHSU. In that capacity he strengthened ties between Providence and the university, which has resulted in Providence's entire medical faculty earning academic appointments to OHSU.

Dr. Heffner has held leadership positions on national medical boards, including the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Thoracic Society and the American College of Chest Physicians. He served as the president of the American Thoracic Society in 2006.

He has published more than 400 articles and 19 books and has served as associate editor of Chest, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, and Respirology. He also has been on the editorial boards of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Journal of Thoracic Imaging, American Journal of Medicine, Respiratory Care and others.

He has mentored Providence faculty in their scholarly work as well, and has helped members pursue further education in areas of clinical transformation. Scott Marsal, M.D., a faculty member and medical director of patient safety for the Oregon Region, credits Dr. Heffner for helping him gain expertise in quality and patient safety.

“John is a selfless leader,” Dr. Marsal says. “And he's devoted to supporting people all around him in a really amazing way.”

After his retirement at the end of June, Dr. Heffner will stay on as emeritus faculty at Providence to help residents with scholarly pursuits, but he plans to split his time between Napa and San Diego, Calif., to “mentor the grandkids.”

“We have been blessed to have Dr. Heffner as PPMC's graduate medical education leader,” says Theron Park, chief executive of delivery systems. “Even more impressive than his national recognition is his compassion for faculty, residents and patients. Dr. Heffner has carried on the longstanding tradition of excellence at PPMC and he'll truly be missed as a person of Providence.”

Providence is conducting a national search for the next Garnjobst Chair. To apply or to recommend a colleague, contact search committee chair Louis Libby, M.D., at 503-708-0468.