Global public health expert and primary care physician to lead Ariadne Labs

BOSTON – Ariadne Labs announced today that health system innovation leader Dr. Asaf Bitton, a Harvard professor and Brigham and Women’s Hospital primary care physician, has been selected as its new executive director. He succeeds Dr. Atul Gawande, who now assumes the role of chairman of the Ariadne Labs Governance Council.

“Asaf is the ideal next leader for Ariadne Labs. He has a big heart, big ideas, and demonstrated capacity for big impact,” said Gawande, who led a national search with Brigham Health President Dr. Betsy Nabel and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Dean Michelle Williams. “Ariadne Labs is an engine of innovation and discovery for health systems change, and we could not be more excited to pass the keys to Asaf.”

A public health expert whose research spans international tobacco control policy and the global burden of chronic disease, to U.S. health care payment reform, Bitton, 41, has been the director of the Ariadne Labs Primary Health Care Program since 2014. In that role, he has been a leader of the Primary Health Care Performance Initiative, launched in 2015 at the United Nations by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and the World Health Organization with Ariadne Labs to strengthen primary health care systems worldwide. Bitton also has collaborated with international health leaders to build novel health system innovations in Estonia, China and Ghana, and is a technical leader for a global Joint Learning Network of 10 countries working to strengthen integrated health care service delivery.

“I am thrilled that Asaf has taken on this new role, building on the great work of Atul and the Ariadne Labs team,” said Dr. Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Asaf’s efforts are leading to stronger primary health care systems both in the U.S. and in low- and middle-income countries worldwide.”

Nationally, Bitton has served as a senior advisor to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation since 2012, developing a national demonstration project to transform care delivery and payment models. Today, it has expanded into Medicare’s largest primary care initiative, known as Comprehensive Primary Care Plus, with 13,000 clinicians in nearly 3000 practices serving 15 million patients across 18 regions in the U.S.

As a practicing physician at Brigham Health, Bitton helped found South Huntington Advanced Primary Care Associates, an innovative team-based, primary care practice serving patients with complex psychosocial and clinical needs. The practice, which opened in 2010, is a patient-centered medical home and was cited in the Annals of Family Medicine as one of 23 high performing practices in the U.S. Bitton will continue to practice medicine at the South Huntington clinic.

“Asaf is a brilliant and compassionate leader who has made a significant impact on the delivery of primary care here in Boston and around the world,” said Nabel. “He is a thoughtful scholar who is dedicated to improving the patient experience, making him the ideal candidate to build on the extraordinary work being done at Ariadne Labs.”

Bitton holds a faculty appointment in the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. As faculty lead for transformation strategy and design at the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care, he led the Academic Innovation Collaborative, a 19-clinic, $14 million, 2-year effort from 2012-2014 to transform 20 academic primary care teaching practices affiliated with HMS into patient-centered medical homes, resulting in improved staff and trainee experience as well as reduced emergency room and hospital utilization among chronically ill patients.. He has been a founding member of a Harvard-Stanford collaboration that has used microsimulation and other techniques in a dozen studies quantifying the value of primary care and better ways of paying for it.

Bitton will take the helm of Ariadne Labs effective May 1. A joint center of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Ariadne Labs has 110 faculty and staff and a portfolio of public health projects around the world.

“The reason I and so many others have been drawn to Ariadne is it offers a home for those of us who want use the tools of academia to solve big problems in healthcare together, and we have already exceeded expectations, ” said Bitton. “I’m excited, optimistic and humbled by the opportunity to lead the next era of our impact.”

Bitton holds a bachelor’s degree in health and society from Brown University, an M.D. from University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and a master’s degree in public health from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  A resident of Brookline, Bitton is married with two daughters.