CAMDEN -- Jeffrey Brenner, a primary care physician at Cooper Health whose efforts to improve the delivery of health care to the nation’s most impoverished citizens earned a MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship in 2013, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Rutgers University-Camden during the campus’s Commencement and Honors Convocation ceremony May 21.
The selection of Brenner, who also will serve as the keynote speaker at the campuswide ceremony, was confirmed by the Rutgers Board of Governors during its regular meeting in New Brunswick on Tuesday, April 1.
In addition to the Commencement and Honors Convocation, Rutgers–Camden will hold separate graduation ceremonies for its School of Business, School of Nursing, School of Law and Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Wednesday, May 21, and Thursday, May 22.“Dr. Brenner’s work is saving lives and transforming communities, here in Camden and across the nation,” says Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Wendell Pritchett. “His visionary approach to addressing critical disparities in health care delivery combines data, medicine, and urban planning to create a new model. Rutgers-Camden is pleased to present an honorary degree to Dr. Brenner and to have him serve as our keynote commencement speaker.”
In 2013, Brenner was named a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellows program (the so-called “genius grant”) by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for his work to improve urban health care. His work was profiled by the writer and surgeon Atul Gawande in an article in The New Yorker, “The Hot Spotters,” and in an episode of PBS Frontline.
Determined to improve the lives of the sickest residents of Camden – one of America’s poorest cities – Brenner, 44, constructed a searchable database and geographic mapping of discharge data from all patients at Camden’s hospitals and discovered that a very small number of patients consumed a large share of the overall costs of health care and social supports.
To address this issue, Brenner established the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, bringing together doctors in community-based private practices, frontline hospital staff and social workers across the city to participate in a strategy of comprehensive preventive and primary care. He designed a system that delivers daily information about hospitalizations to the coalition and members of care management teams. Each team is made up of a registered nurse, one or two licensed practical nurses, a health coach, and a social worker to support and help coordinate care for patients with complex medical and social issues.
Brenner has demonstrated that using this model of cooperative care – identifying and visiting high-risk patients, earning their trust, offering access to clinical services, heading off medical complications before they occur and addressing social needs before they become medical problems – can reduce repeated emergency room visits and hospitalizations and lower health care costs. Currently working with 10 communities across the country on developing sustainable and accountable care systems based on the Camden model, Brenner’s collaborative approach to health care delivery is an important contribution to the national conversation on health care reform.
He received a bachelor’s degree (1990) from Vassar College and an M.D. (1995) from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and he completed his residency in family medicine at the Swedish Health Center in Seattle. In addition to serving as executive director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers since its founding in 2003, Brenner is the medical director of the Urban Health Institute at the Cooper University Health Care; using modern business techniques, this unit is redesigning long-standing clinical care models to deliver better care at lower cost. He serves on the faculty of the Cooper Medical School at Rowan University and practices in the family and community medicine department of Cooper University Health Care.
Brenner’s professional career has sought to ensure that all families who live in urban, underserved communities receive high quality, culturally competent, personalized family health care. Previously, Brenner owned and operated a solo-practice, urban family medicine office in Camden that provided full-spectrum family health services to a largely Hispanic, Medicaid population including delivering babies, caring for children and adults and doing home visits.
Brenner resides in Philadelphia with his wife, Jennifer Greenberg, who serves as a city planner, and their children Finn, 9, and Violet, 7. He is on the board of the Mariposa Food Cooperative in West Philadelphia.
The Commencement and Honors Convocation will be held in the Susquehanna Bank Center on the Camden Waterfront at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 21. Additional details are available at camden.rutgers.edu/page/commencement.