Gerald B. Hickson, MD

Founding Director

Vanderbilt Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy

Gerald B. Hickson is the Joseph C. Ross Chair of Medical Education and Administration, Professor of Pediatrics, and Founding Director of the Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy (CPPA) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr. Hickson joined the Department of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt in 1982. He served as Chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and Chief of Pediatric Outpatient Services from 1983 until 2003. In 2003, Dr. Hickson founded CPPA, and was appointed as Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. From 2005 – 2020 Dr. Hickson served as Director of Clinical Risk and Loss Prevention and from 2013 – 2020 he served as Senior Vice President of Quality, Safety and Risk Prevention for Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Since 1990, Dr. Hickson’s research has focused on why families choose to file suit, why certain physicians attract a disproportionate share of claims, how disrespect impacts team performance and outcomes of care and how to identify and intervene with high-risk clinicians.

His work has resulted in over 180 peer review articles, chapters, and invited commentaries. In addition, Dr. Hickson has developed educational initiatives to promote disclosure of medical errors, address behaviors that undermine a culture of safety, and promote and sustain high performing teams. Under his direction, the CPPA developed PARS® (Patient Advocacy Reporting System) and CORSsm (Coworker Observation Reporting System) programs that use unsolicited patient and coworker observations as the basis for tiered interventions on high-risk clinicians. The PARS® and CORSsm programs have been implemented in over 200 hospitals and health systems in the US.

Dr. Hickson serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). He also serves on the Board of Directors of the University of Southern California (USC) Health System and is a member of the International Regulatory Expert Advisory Group to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Previously Dr. Hickson served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) and as Chair of the Board of Professionals in Patient Safety (CBPPS). Dr. Hickson also was Chair of the Quality Care Committee for the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Quality Improvement.

In 2014 and 2019, Dr. Hickson was recognized by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation with their Professionalism Article Prize and was the first Dr. Allan D. and Claire S. Jenson Lecturer in Professionalism and Ethics for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Additional honors include the Excellence in Research and Teaching Award from the Ambulatory Pediatric Association, the National Healthcare Patient Advocacy Award from the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy and the Vanguard Award for the Advancement of Patient Safety.

Dr. Hickson received a BS from the University of Georgia and MD from Tulane University School of Medicine.