Alumni Spotlight: Dr. David Ottensmeyer ’85

Dr. Ottensmeyer has a long history in the health care field. His life is one of service by addressing the health care needs of the community.

Dr. David J. Ottensmeyer is a graduate of the Medical School at University of Wisconsin in 1959 where he also did his postgraduate training in neurological surgery. After two years on the faculty at Wisconsin he moved to Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield Wisconsin and practiced as neurological surgery. Attending one of his early meetings of clinic’s board of directors, Ottensmeyer complained about the lack of planning at the clinic. Quickly, he was appointed to the position of chair of a the long-range planning committee. Shortly thereafter he was elected the Chief Executive Officer by the clinic’s medical group. To better prepare himself for a role in healthcare management, he attended the Harvard Business School’s Program in Health Services Management in 1975. In 1976 he became President and Chief Executive Officer of the Lovelace Medical Center and Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There he managed their large group practice of 300 physicians, it’s hospital with 175 beds and its widely known research foundation which specialized in aerospace medicine and environmental toxicology.

During that period he served as president of the American Group Practice Association, was a founding member of the American Academy of Medical Directors and subsequently served as President of the American College of Physician Executives. He was a leader in the new and then developing medical specialty of medical management by physician executives. In that role he advocated and encouraged physicians to prepare themselves for management by pursuing a postgraduate degree in management. To that end he chose the University of St. Francis from which he received a Master in Science degree in health services administration in 1985. His assertion to physicians was “a medical degree prepares you to practice medicine, not to manage complex and socially critical organizations. For that you need a management degree.”

Looking to the still unresolved problems of quality healthcare at an affordable price, Dr. Ottensmeyer was deeply involved with the growth of health maintenance organizations during the 1970’s and 80’s. He helped form and managed HMOs at the Marshfield Clinic and The Lovelace Medical Center. In 1986 he moved on to become the Chief Medical Officer of EQUICOR in Nashville, TN., which was a joint venture of Hospital Corporation of America and the Equitable Insurance Company. In 1990 he became the Chief Medical Officer of Travelers Insurance Company in Hartford Connecticut. In 1991 he returned to Lovelace as CEO of their Biomedical Research Institutes. He retired in 1995.

Dr. Ottensmeyer observes that efforts to control the cost and quality of healthcare are generating rapid change in American’s healthcare system. “Organizations like the Marshfield Clinic, the Carle Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic and the Virginia Mason Clinic are now excellently positioned to by virtue of their organizational structure to become the Accountable Healthcare Organizations envisioned in the new healthcare law.